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2nd person charged in killing of Michael Brasel in St. Paul

Mar 06, 2023Mar 06, 2023

A second person charged Thursday in the fatal shooting of a St. Paul dad and youth hockey coach told police that he and a 17-year-old "were out to ‘car shop’ — look through cars for items to steal," a court document said.

Michael Brasel's wife has said the 44-year-old likely saw someone rummaging through their car and then was shot outside their home in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood last month.

Ta Mla, 18, is charged with aiding and abetting murder in the Brasel case. Kle Swee, 17, was charged with the same offense last month.

Police got a break in the case from a car bumper that was left behind nearby, with the license plate still attached, which led them to Kle Swee.

They used other electronic evidence to link Kle Swee to Ta Mla, including locations of cell phones, information about who paid to rent out scooters, and a Facebook nickname, according to the criminal complaint.

On Tuesday, police stopped a vehicle that Ta Mla was a passenger in and arrested him. They found a Glock in the vehicle, which he later told police was the same gun used to shoot Brasel.

Police asked Ta Mla about the incident with Kle Swee. Ta Mla said he was looking through a Ford Flex for a phone charger.

The Ford was registered to Brasel and his wife, Hilary Brasel. Michael Brasel "surprised Ta Mla and grabbed Ta Mla from behind," Ta Mla told police, the complaint said. "Ta Mla heard one or two shots. After the shots were fired, Ta Mla drove off."

"When pressed, Ta Mla eventually admitted there was a third person sitting behind the driver's seat in the Honda," the complaint said. "Ta Mla denied knowing the man's name. He asked (Kle Swee) and the other man what happened because they were supposed to be acting as lookouts. (Kle Swee) apologized and said, ‘My bad, bro. I’m sorry. I didn't mean to.'"

Ta Mla's girlfriend reported that Ta Mla was with Kle Swee rummaging through cars "when a man came out and put Ta Mla in a chokehold" and Kle Swee shot the man, the complaint said.

Ta Mla told police that Kle Swee felt bad for shooting Brasel. He said they talked about it and he told Kle Swee "that God knows what they did," the complaint continued. "Ta Mla said (Brasel) was an innocent guy."

Ta Mla's bail was set at $2 million Thursday. An attorney for him had no comment.

Asked Thursday whether police are looking for a third suspect in the case, a police spokesman said the investigation is ongoing.

Officers who responded to the shooting at 7:21 a.m. May 6 found Brasel in his front yard in the 2300 block of Chilcombe Avenue. Hilary Brasel, a registered nurse, gave him chest compressions and had yelled for help. Michael Brasel died at 8:04 a.m. at the hospital of multiple gunshot wounds.

The Brasel's two children were fifth- and eighth-graders at the time. One was inside the house when he heard his dad yell from outside, "What are you doing?" followed by gunshots.

Officers saw the family's Ford Flex, which was parked on the street, appeared to have been rummaged through, with a small bag and a phone charging cable near the front seat. Testing linked DNA on the bag to Ta Mla, the complaint said.

Another neighbor from a nearby street discovered their vehicle had been rummaged through before the shooting. Several items were removed from the center console of the vehicle. The same black vehicle involved in the murder was seen on surveillance video near the neighbor's car.

St. Anthony police told St. Paul investigators that between 7:20 a.m. and 7:23 a.m. that day, about 1½ miles away in Lauderale, a person saw a black sedan speed through a stop sign and swerve up onto the curb and sidewalk to avoid hitting another vehicle. The sedan's front bumper was knocked off and the driver kept going, leaving the bumper behind. The witness saw at least two people in the sedan.

Police collected the bumper, which had a license plate on it registered to Kle Swee's father, but the vehicle had been purchased for the teen. Ta Mla later told police he didn't know the bumper fell off when he hit the curb.

Location analysis on Kle Swee's and Ta Mla's cell phones placed them near Brasel's home at the time of the shooting, according to the complaint. It also indicated Kle Swee returned home in St. Paul between 7:45 a.m. and 7:50 a.m. on May 6, and Ta Mla's phone was still with him.

Police pinpointed Kle Swee's cell phone location from about 10 a.m. that day and located video from the area that showed two males on scooters in the area. Police determined Kle Swee rented the scooters using his Cash App and entered the name of the guest using a scooter as "Za Za."

Officers found Ta Mla's Facebook account name is "Za Za" and his phone location was in the area at the time of the scooter rental, the complaint said.

Ta Mla has two prior juvenile cases involving possession of pistols. In one, he dropped a Glock when fleeing from deputies, the complaint said.

The Ramsey County attorney's office is seeking to have Kle Swee certified to adult court. His attorney had no comment on the case Thursday.

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