A Minneapolis teenager received a prison term of more than 12 years for pulling off three armed carjackings in the Twin Cities last spring, including one in which he pulled the trigger on a loaded gun aimed at a man who tried to thwart one of the ambushes, but the weapon malfunctioned.
Shamir N. Black, 19, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in St. Paul after pleading guilty to one count of carjacking in connection with the violent auto theft in early June outside the Tony Jaros bar in northeast Minneapolis. His sentence includes three years of court supervision after his 12½-year prison term.
As part of the plea agreement, Black also admitted to involvement in two other armed carjackings in Golden Valley in May 2022.
In a court filing ahead of sentencing, defense attorney Ian Birrell wrote that even though his client was at risk of many years in prison, his arrest "was the best thing that could have happened to him because he needed to change — and it appears he has decided to change. … He is not a hardened criminal but instead a young man with the tools, motivation and support to live a good life in the future."
Birrell also highlighted Black's immediate contrition upon his arrest, his willingness to waive his right to an attorney and answer investigators' questions "quietly and respectfully. He quickly admitted he had done the acts they suspected him of doing," and revealed that he snorted an addictive prescription painkiller shortly before two of the carjackings.
Prosecutors countered in their presentence filing that Black deserved the maximum term that federal guidelines recommended because he committed "the type of arbitrary crime that leaves people reeling with trauma for years. ... [Black] has demonstrated a pattern of lawlessness over the past several years, and a significant sentence will protect the public while he corrects his course."
The prosecution also pointed out that Black's criminal history as a juvenile includes three convictions for auto theft but at the same time nodded to his addiction to opiates and continuing "struggle with unresolved mental health issues stemming from loss and grief."
According to court documents:
On May 16, Black confronted a man getting in his BMW outside the Breck Ice Arena in Golden Valley and demanded his keys. The man ran, and Black chased after him, racked the slide on his gun, pressed it to his victim's head and started counting down from 10. The man surrendered his keys, and Black drove off.
On May 19, Black approached a man in the garage of his Golden Valley home and stole his BMW at gunpoint.
Both vehicles were soon recovered undamaged.
On June 9, Black and an unidentified accomplice approached a 51-year-old employee of a bar in the 2500 block of NE. Marshall Street and demanded her car keys. Black pushed the woman to the ground and pistol-whipped her in the head.
A coworker stepped in, but he was also assaulted by Black. During the struggle, Black fired the gun in the man's direction, but it did not discharge a bullet.
"He saw [Black] pull the trigger of the firearm, heard the gun fire, and saw the muzzle flash," read the criminal complaint. "However, [the man] was not struck by a bullet."
According to an FBI agent assigned to the case who testified during a detention hearing for Black, the man recalled thinking upon hearing the gun fire, "How could he have missed me?"
Black and the accomplice got into the woman's vehicle and drove it into a brick wall. Other bystanders pulled Black from the driver's seat and put him on the ground. Despite their efforts, Black and his accomplice fled on foot.
Police found a semiautomatic pistol wrapped in a sweatshirt in a nearby park. It had one round lodged in the chamber, the charging document said.
Police suspect a car was stolen in a Prior Lake home burglary on the same night the firearm was stolen in a separate home burglary there. Officers recovered the car at Black's home, and he was arrested on June 24.