Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem's Office today charged Alexander William Weiss with second-degree murder, without intent, in Sunday's shooting death of a Rochester teenager.
The incident started as a two-vehicle crash that turned into a deadly confrontation that cost 17-year-old Muhammed Rahim his life.
Weiss made his first appearance in Olmsted County District Court shortly after 11 a.m. today. Judge Kathy Wallace set conditional bail at $75,000.
The incident began when Rahim backed his car into Weiss' vehicle at the intersection of 31st Street and East River Road Northeast. The two got out of their cars and began arguing. At some point during the confrontation, Weiss went back to his vehicle to retrieve a handgun, according to Rochester police.
Weiss, 25, then fired a single shot, hitting Rahim in the chest, according to Rochester Police Lt. Mike Sadauskis. Police arrived to find Rahim on the street, unresponsive. He was transported by ambulance to Mayo Clinic Hospital-Saint Marys Campus, where he was declared dead just before 9 a.m.
When officers arrived at the crime scene they noted a small pool of blood on the snowy road, about 20-feet from Weiss' vehicle.
Weiss' vehicle had visible damage to the rear passenger-side door. An officer who responded to the crime scene noted in the criminal complaint that Weiss's vehicle bore a bumper sticker that read "Gun Control Means Hitting Your Target."
Weiss told officers that Rahim had shoved and spat at him before he shot Rahim. Two other witness accounts say the two never made physical contact, according to the criminal complaint filed today.
The first witness, who was with Rahim at the time of the collision and who got out of the vehicle with him, told law enforcement that Weiss got out of his vehicle "as if he wished to fight." Both the witness and Rahim were yelling at Weiss about fighting them and "posturing and speaking aggressively."
The witness told authorities that Rahim got very close to Weiss, "puffing his chest out with his hands down." When Weiss produced the gun, Rahim allegedly told him, "I f----ing dare you to do it."
Rochester police were seeking a second witness whose path was blocked by the collision. She came forward Tuesday and told police she saw Weiss pull the gun from his pocket, raise it, and then fire one shot at Rahim, from what Lt. Mike Sadauskis called a "car's length away."
According to her account, Rahim had not touched Weiss, nor had he raised a fist or advanced toward him at the time Weiss fired. She drove away and flagged down an officer on Broadway Avenue North, who was the first officer on the scene, according to Sadauskis.
According to the criminal complaint, Weiss, said he got out of his vehicle and told the two teenagers he was going to call the police. Weiss said the male teenager with Rahim threatened to beat him up, behavior that he told Rochester police had caused him to be "fearful for his safety."
Weiss said that's when he went back to his vehicle to get his cell phone and his gun, telling the boys that he had a gun on him and that they "should not do anything stupid," the criminal complaint said.
It was then that Rahim shoved Weiss, according to Weiss' account. Weiss then pulled out his gun and Rahim allegedly said, "That's not even a real gun," and spat at Weiss. Weiss said he then told Rahim not to get closer, but he "reached out to touch the gun."
Not a 'flight risk'
Olmsted County District Court Judge Kathy Wallace determined today that Weiss was not a flight risk, but because of the circumstances of the case she ruled he was a "risk to public safety."
Weiss remains in custody in lieu of $75,000 conditional bail, or $200,000 unconditional bail.
Wallace noted that Weiss called police, waited at the scene of the crime and cooperated with law enforcement following the shooting. Per the conditions set by Wallace, he's not to possess any firearms or dangerous weapons.
Ostrem called the self-defense claim the "central element" in the case. The decision whether to charge Weiss hinged on what Minnesota law refers to as a "justifiable taking of life." That means a situation in which the actor reasonably fears "great bodily harm or death," or acts to stop a felony in his or her home.
"The easiest way to think about that, is you're allowed to use the same force against somebody that is being used against you," Ostrem said Tuesday.
Rochester Police Capt. John Sherwin said Tuesday that Weiss was not physically injured in the confrontation, nor were punches thrown. No other weapons were involved.
Minnesota is also a "duty to retreat" state, which means just that; you have a "duty to retreat" before defending yourself or others with force.
Second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of not more than 40 years.