MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A 30-year-old St. Paul man is facing robbery charges in a shooting at a St. Paul motel that left two people dead, according to charges filed in Ramsey County Court.
Eric John Benner was charged with first-degree attempted aggravated robbery and attempted simple robbery in connection with the incident, which happened Tuesday night.
According to a criminal complaint, St. Paul police were called at about 9:33 p.m. to the Midway Motel at 901 North Snelling Avenue on a report of a shooting. When officers arrived, they found two adult males dead at the scene. A caller said there was a disturbance in one of the rooms, followed by gunfire. One victim was down in the parking lot of the motel, and the other was found on an adjacent road.
The Ramsey County Medical Examiner ruled that both men died of gunshot wounds to the back and the manner of their deaths was homicide.
The complaint states an initial investigation showed narcotics activity in the motel room. There were no gunshot casings in the room.
Surveillance video shows a commotion near the entryway of the room and several people fleeing. One victim collapsed near a vehicle in the parking lot, while the other was running towards Snelling Avenue and onto the Pierce Butler entrance ramp.
The complaint states one of the victims rented the room at the hotel and left for a short time, returning just before the shooting. He was upset that several people were in the room, approached them and told them to leave. Other people pushed him into the room just before the gunfire. He then stumbled out and collapsed in the parking lot.
According to the complaint, three men are seen on surveillance video leaving the scene in a vehicle. One of the men appears to point and fire a handgun. A witness identified Benner as the owner of the vehicle, and officers later located him at the St. Paul address his vehicle was registered to.
Benner told police the shooting at the motel happened because his friend thought one of the shooting victims stole $1,000 from him. Earlier in the day, Benner drove the victim and another man to the motel, where they were dealing methamphetamine. Benner told his friend that the victim was at the motel, and his friend wanted to collect his money.
Benner told police the three men converged on the motel room, where the victim was dealing drugs. Benner said he heard gunshots, but didn’t see who was shot. After the shooting, everyone left the scene and the three men drove way. Benner’s friend said while in the vehicle “If we get caught, I know nothing,” according to the complaint.
Police identified Benner’s friend as Ronald Lee Conway. He told police he was with the shooter just before the incident. Conway told police the shooter was known as “Black,” identified as Cass Cordel ONeal. Police located ONeal at his home, along with the weapon believed to be used in the shooting. The gun was stolen out of Coon Rapids, according to the complaint.
If convicted, Benner faces up to 15 years in prison and nearly $30,000 in fines.