St. Paul shooting plea deal leaves mother of victim questioning system

Five years after losing his life in a fatal shooting outside a Twin Cities bar, authorities now know who is responsible for killing Michael Gray. 

A St. Paul man has admitted to committing the murder and, as part of a plea deal, could avoid serving more than 15 years behind bars – leaving Gray’s mother outraged.

"I’ve been crying for five years, it doesn’t get any better," Barbara Gray told FOX 9's Bisi Onile-Ere.

As a mother in mourning, Gray recalls the day she lost her only son.

"That Saturday morning, I think it was around 1:27 a.m., I get a phone call and they tell me my son is dead," Gray said.

The terrifying scene unfolding in the parking lot of Johnny Baby's bar on University Avenue in St. Paul in May of 2019. Michael Gray was shot in the back three times—one of the bullets striking him in the head.

The father of three, who worked in construction, was 33 years old.

"There’s a difference between being killed and being murdered. And my son was murdered," Gray said. 

According to the criminal complaint, surveillance footage shows three men inside a white four-door sedan.

Standing outside the vehicle, Gray is seen talking to the front passenger, who minutes later leans out of the window and starts shooting. 

"The only thing that I know is that you hear stories… Is that he was coming out of the bar or something and he bumped one of the guys that was in the car, that shot him," Gray said.

The loss has left family and friends reeling.

Investigators eventually located the suspect vehicle, and DNA recovered from a cigarette butt inside the car linked Devante Lattrele Jennings, 29, to the scene of the crime. 

Still, years passed with no arrests. 

"When they finally contacted me and told me they found a person, he was already incarcerated for another gun charge," Gray said.

In March of 2023, while imprisoned on a firearms conviction, Jennings was charged with two counts of second-degree murder for killing Michael Gray. 

For this mother, any sense of relief was short-lived.

"I get a phone call about three weeks ago telling me that they made a plea deal and they wanted to talk to us and I’m like ‘plea deal?’" Gray said. 

Earlier this month, Jennings pleaded guilty to second-degree unintentional murder while committing a felony. The intentional murder charge will be dismissed. 

"Why did you plea bargain for that when you know he killed my son?" Gray said.

As opposed to serving up to at least 40 years in prison, Jennings now faces between 13 and 15 years behind bars.

"He admitted to shooting my son, and they showed me this scale… that he would be, he would be out in five to seven years," Gray said.

The Ramsey County Attorney's Office declined to comment on the case.

Meanwhile, Gray says that she plans to take her complaints to the Minnesota Attorney General's office.

"Explain to me. If you shoot somebody in the back, and you murder them, how do you walk away in that little time?" Gray said. "We’ve got to stop this, look at what’s going on because there are no consequences for these people’s actions anymore."

But it's through loss and grief that Gray says she’s found a new purpose.

"I would like to see him get the full-time. What kind of system we got? This is what I’m fighting for, the mothers, the families," Gray said.

Jennings is expected to be sentenced in July.