St. Paul man charged in fatal shooting of driver found in crashed car

St. Paul police investigating a fatal shoot near the intersection of Van Dyke and York Avenue. (Credit: St. Paul Police Department)  (Supplied)

A St. Paul man is facing charges in the death of a 22-year-old driver who was found fatally shot in a crashed car.  

Ramsey County prosecutors charged 30-year-old Lawrence Danzel Phelps via warrant on Monday with second-degree murder for his alleged role in the death of Royce D. McKinney. 

According to court records, on the night of June 24, several 911 callers reported hearing multiple gunshots followed by a car crashing near the intersection of Van Dyke Street and York Avenue. At the scene, officers found McKinney in the driver’s seat of a Chevrolet Tahoe that crashed into a tree. 

McKinney sustained a gunshot wound to the torso, and medics pronounced him dead at the scene. 

While investigating, authorities recovered a handgun inside the vehicle, which was damaged by bullet holes. Charges said police also found spent shell casing between the driveways of two houses on Sims Avenue, a home that was familiar to law enforcement. 

According to the complaint, a 17-year-old boy previously arrested in connection to robberies lives at the house with his mother. Police said he matched the description of the suspected shooter and started surveillance on the teen. 

When the teenager got into an Uber, law enforcement conducted a traffic stop, and the teen allegedly told officers, "There is a gun in my bag." The firearm matched the casings recovered in the alley, the complaint said.

The teenager initially claimed he knew the gun was involved in the shooting, but a man named "Derrick", who was a friend of his mother, shot McKinney and forced him to take the gun. However, his mother said Derrick did not exist.

The investigation shifted to his older brother, Phelps. The teenager claimed Phelps previously had stolen marijuana from McKinney, and back in March, McKinney shot at Phelps. The complaint states the casings from that shooting matched McKinney’s firearm.

On the day of the recent shooting, the teenager reportedly saw McKinney’s Tahoe while grocery shopping, and he followed them back to their house. McKinney revved the engine and left the area, but later returned. Phelps reportedly changed clothes, grabbed a gun, ran outside, and the teenager described hearing several gunshots shortly after. 

Phelps reportedly told his sister he hid in the alley, and when the Tahoe drove by, he started shooting. Surveillance video captured the Tahoe driving at a high rate of speed from the alley, followed by the shooter running.

Phelps was later arrested but denied knowing anything about the shooting. According to court records, he also has warrants from Dakota and Hennepin counties and the Minnesota Department of Corrections for a parole violation.