Charges: St. Paul man, 22, admits to shooting 51-year-old man who interrupted catalytic converter theft

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A 22-year-old St. Paul man who was waiting while his accomplice tried to steal a catalytic converter off a pickup truck shot a man who interrupted the attempted theft, according to criminal charges.

Kaw Bleh Htoo was charged Thursday in Ramsey County District Court with second-degree assault-dangerous weapon-substantial bodily harm and two counts of first-degree attempted aggravated robbery in connection with the Feb. 21 incident at a business in St. Paul’s St. Anthony Park neighborhood.

Three days after the shooting, 18-year-old Eh Ler Pweh of St. Paul, who authorities say was the accomplice, was charged with four felonies: two counts of first-degree attempted aggravated robbery and one count each of possessing a firearm with an altered serial number and receiving stolen property.

Police were called to the business at 2350 Territorial Road around 3:40 p.m. Feb. 21 on a report of a shooting and attempted theft. Officers spoke to a 51-year-old man who’d been shot in the buttocks and was being loaded into an ambulance.

He told officers he was inside where he works and saw a dark sedan park next to a co-worker’s Toyota Tundra pickup truck. He said it is a quiet parking lot, but they have had catalytic convertor thefts in the past.

He said he went to the parking lot to investigate and saw someone in the driver’s seat of the car and someone under the truck. He said he heard a sawing noise and saw legs sticking out, so he put his foot on one of the legs and yelled, “Stop that!” the complaint read.

He said he heard a gunshot, then realized he’d been shot. He fell to the ground and crawled back to the business, where co-workers helped him until police arrived.

Surveillance video from the business shows the incident as the man had described, according to police. It shows the two suspects flee the area in the sedan while the wounded man was lying in the parking lot.

Two days later, officers on patrol near Rice and Front streets spotted a car matching the Scion. It ran a red light and crashed into a snowbank on Sylvan Street. Three males fled on foot.

Officers chased and arrested Pweh, who’d been driving, and three other males. A black 9mm semi-automatic handgun was found in the area where Pweh was taken into custody. The gun’s magazine was missing and its serial number scratched off.

The car had been reported stolen from Forest Street in St. Paul on Feb. 2.

When interviewed, Pweh said he bought the gun about a month ago and that the serial number had already been scratched off. He admitted to trying to steal the catalytic converter, but refused to tell investigators who shot the man, according to the complaint. Pweh said he knew the car was stolen.

Investigators obtained a search warrant for Pweh’s cell phone, which showed text messages messages between him and Htoo that referenced “cutting,” the complaint read. Htoo’s cell phone was also traced back to the business at the time of the shooting.

In a jail call with Pweh, Htoo praised him for not giving police any information, according to the complaint.

Htoo was arrested on Wednesday at a residence on Bush Avenue in St. Paul. He had an active Dakota County warrant.

In an interview with investigators, Htoo initially denied involvement in the shooting. When faced with evidence, he admitted he was the shooter and asked how much time he was looking at, the complaint states. He said it was an accident and that he was scared of the victim, who was bigger and was kicking Pweh while he was under the car.

Investigators learned the victim suffered a broken pelvis from the gunshot and would not be able to walk for at least six weeks.

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