INVER GROVE HEIGHTS, Minn. (KMSP) - Billy Ray Robles, his girlfriend insists, is no gang member—and the bullets that killed him were almost certainly intended to strike someone else.
In fact, she said he spent his last minutes trying to keep the peace on a party bus ride that, ultimately, ended in gunfire.
A chaotic scene surrounding the fatal shooting early Saturday morning in the parking lot of an AMC movie theater in Inver Grove Heights means police are having trouble identifying who fired the fatal shots, though on Wednesday two minors were charged with riot and assault in relation to the incident.
“I just want everyone to know he was a good kid,” said Robles’ girlfriend Alexis Clardy, who held the 19-year-old as he took his final breath. “[He was] a really good kid, no matter what anybody said. He loved me and he loved his family.”
The two teenagers who fired shots that night, aged 16 and 17, were part of a group that identified themselves as “east side,” boarding a the party bus earlier in the night for another woman’s birthday party along with several members of a rival "west side" group. Both factions were arguing throughout the night, according to police, culminating in a fistfight that led the west side group to chase members of the east side group off the bus around 1:30 a.m.
Authorities say both the teenagers charged Wednesday turned back to fire their weapons while running away, hitting Robles twice and striking another minor in the ankle.
Two witnesses associated with the west side group, including the other teenager who was shot, identified a "white male" and a "black male," according to the criminal complaint. Police were then able to identify both shooters through a photo lineup.
Meanwhile, authorities and many loved ones of the 40-50 people who boarded the bus at some point Saturday night are still wondering what a group of teenagers were doing with guns while celebrating a young woman’s birthday.
“I think there is a level of irony in the fact that at the same time across this nation when young people are focused on reducing violence, an incident occurs where a teen loses his life and another is injured because of gunshots,” Inver Grove Heights Police Chief Paul Schnell said.
The Dakota County Attorney's office says it has filed motions to prosecute both minors as adults.