Jurors have acquitted a 24-year-old man charged with fatally shooting another man nearly a year ago outside a popular bar and restaurant on Grand Avenue in St. Paul.
Demond A. Dawson, of Roseville, was found not guilty Friday in Ramsey County District Court of second-degree murder and second-degree attempted murder in connection with the killing of Albert D. Stevens, 29, of St. Paul on Sept. 27 outside Billy's on Grand.
"Regrettably, a key witness failed to appear to testify, making critical elements of the case very difficult to prove," read a statement issued Monday by the County Attorney's Office, which did not identify the witness.
"While we are disappointed with the outcome, we respect the jury's decision in this case. We want to thank our law enforcement partners for their diligent work on this case. Our hearts go out to the victim and his family."
Dawson's attorney, Steve Meshbesher, said, "My whole case was you don't have the right guy. My client didn't do it."
Meshbesher said DNA on one of the shell casings at the scene was not a match to Dawson's DNA, and a woman who was at the scene of the shooting testified that she saw Dawson in a black car. Three other people testified that the gunfire came from a car that was either silver or gray.
Upon his arrest soon after the killing, Dawson was jailed in lieu of $500,000 bail. His family paid $50,000 to a bond company in order for Dawson to be released two weeks later.
Stevens was pronounced dead at the scene in the 800 block of Grand Avenue, a stretch in St. Paul with many shops, restaurants, bars and other businesses. Another 29-year-old man also was wounded by gunfire and survived being shot in the thigh.
According to the criminal complaint, witnesses said Stevens was arguing with occupants in a car. Gunfire erupted, and the car drove away. A woman said she saw Dawson driving the car and identified him as the person arguing with Stevens. Another witness saw "muzzle flashes" come from the car, the complaint read.
Police located Dawson, arrested him and asked whether he was at Billy's around the time of the shooting. He said he was there but declined to say more, according to the complaint.
There will be no reopening of the case, said police spokeswoman Natalie Davis.
"Anytime a jury finds a defendant not guilty, the case is closed," Davis said. "Unfortunately, in this case the key witness failed to show in court."
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482