Lionel Eaton, 27, is charged with one count of second-degree murder by drive-by shooting and one count of third-degree murder.
Police say Eaton caused a chain-reaction crash Monday night in a neighborhood in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Neighbors who heard the crash, including 31-year-old Javier Sanmiguel Yanez, rushed out of their homes.
Yanez and several others began looking for the driver who had triggered the crash, which damaged at least four cars.
Neighbors say Eaton had climbed into the back of a hatchback after the crash. They thought he might have been injured, so they opened the hatch to check. That’s when the suspect allegedly began shooting from inside the car.
“We noticed he was in the back of the hatch. When the gentleman across the street tried to open the lever and asked him to get out, that is when he opened fire… That’s a monster to open fire on innocent people just trying to help everybody,” said a witness only identified as Maya.
Yanez, a husband and father to four young children, was fatally shot in the head.
"There was no reason for him to fire, none. No one was being aggressive towards him or anything like that,” said Charlie, a neighbor who was right next to Yanez when he was shot.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the victim’s family. It has already raised more than $25,000.
"This guy did exactly what I would want him to do, if I was injured in an accident. I'd want him to come to my aid, and he did exactly that. It's extremely sad that he paid for his life,” said Sgt. Mike Ernster with Saint Paul Police.
Eaton is in custody at the Ramsey County Jail. His first court appearance is scheduled for Wednesday morning.
Police say Yanez’s death was one of three separate fatal shootings in the city in less than nine hours.
Police say the victim’s death was one of three separate fatal shootings in Saint Paul in less than nine hours.