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May 9, 2005
St. Paul, Minn. — Suspect Harry Jerome Evans made his first court appearance and was charged with first-degree murder. County Attorney Susan Gaertner says if convicted, Evans would spend the rest of his life in prison.
"If you kill an officer in the line of duty, and do so intentionally, we can charge under a particular provision of the law which is first degree murder of a peace officer, the punishment is life imprisonment without the possibility of release, according to Gaertner, who says there is no evidence that Evans and a second suspect knew Vick was a police officer.
Vick and his partner were working undercover in plain clothes at the time of the shooting, and may or may not have identified themselves as police.
"The charge against Harry Jerome Evans is an important first step toward seeking justice for the fatal shooting of Sgt. Vick. We will do everything in our power to obtain a conviction in this very sad and tragic case," she said.
In addition to filing a first-degree murder charge against Evans, the County Attorney's office is holding Antonio Alexander Kelly, who was with Evans at the time of the shooting. Gaertner says the county does not have sufficient evidence to charge Kelly at this time, and is holding him as a "material witness."
"He has given a statement... and that statement is reflected in some part in the complaint, which we think is valuable information for the case," she said.
The complaint says Kelly initially denied any involvement in the shooting. But, it says Kelly later identified Evans as having fired shots. Kelly also identified a porch where he and Evans hid after the shooting. Investigators went to the site and found a .38-caliber revolver within throwing distance of the porch. Investigators also found expended casings from the gun.
The case against Kelly and Evans is also bolstered by images of them on a security videotape. Gaertner says though the video does not show the crime in progress, it places suspects Kelly and Evans at the scene.
"What we have is the two people who were there when the shots went off, including the shooter pictured on that tape. So, in other words, it helps us know we got the right guy," she said.
The complaint says Evans has a long arrest record in in Illinois and in Minnesota. His criminal history includes Illinois convictions for attempted first-degree murder and attempted armed robbery, and a Ramsey County conviction for possession of cocaine.
Gaertner says there is nothing in two suspect's arrest record that would have justified the two being behind bars on the day of the murder.
Police Chief John Harrington says his department is doing everything possible to aid Gaertner.
"I want to continue to make sure we have all the parts of the investigation completely wrapped up so that Susan's office can do what they do best, which is bring this guy to justice and make sure we get the absolute longest sentence possible. Because I really do believe we have the right man, and we're charging him with the right thing," according to Harrington.
According to a criminal complaint, Vick, 41, and his partner, Sgt. Joe Strong were working in plainclothes when they had a confrontation outside Erick's Bar with the men. The sergeants then left in separate cars to return to headquarters, but Kelly walked into the street in front of Strong's car at a red light and confronted him, the complaint said.
Strong called Vick, and the men pursued Evans and Kelly down an alley. Evans turned and shot Vick, the complaint said. Strong returned fire, missing the men, before calling for help and performing first aid on Vick.
Vick was shot twice through the chest and once in the back, the complaint said. Witnesses told police they heard 10 to 12 gunshots.
Harrington says Sgt. Strong, is on administrative leave. Vick's brother, Ken Vick, read a statement thanking the public for the outpouring of support.
Ken Vick said life has been "surreal" since he got a phone call at 3 a.m. Friday telling him to go to the hospital.
Vick said his brother loved to help people.
"We're all going to miss him very much. Very much. And we all respect what he did and we all loved him very much," he said.
Sgt. Gerry Vick's funeral is scheduled for Wednesday at Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church in St. Paul.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)