Thanksgiving robber charged

With a little encouragement from a faithful Power Line reader in St. Paul, I posted “A modest request for help” for Jason Gatrell on Christmas. Readers may recall that Jason was working the afternoon shift with his younger brother, Jordan, at the Midway-Hamline SuperAmerica on Snelling in St. Paul when Jason jumped in to protect Jordan from an armed robber. In the ensuing melee Jason was shot in the neck.

The robbery was reported in the local papers; the Star Tribune’s November 29 story with a blurred photo of the perpetrator is posted here.

Hundreds of Power Line readers responded to Jason’s story with contributions to defray his expenses via his GoFundMe page. Within 24 hours Power Line readers had blown through the campaign’s goal of $25,000. The fund for Jason topped out at $34,000. On December 27 I posted “An update and thanks.”

Jason is back at work and off the feeding tubes that sustained him during the first month of his recovery. Our reader reports that he stopped by the SuperAmerica station yesterday and found Jason working along with his brother. (“He looked good and said he was so happy to be back at work. Still wearing the neck brace for about another month.”)

Having taken a long look at the blurred photo of the perpetrator published by the Star Tribune, I thought the odds that the perpetrator would be apprehended ranged from slim to none. Today’s Star Tribune reports, however, that law enforcement has got their man. His name is Donald Bell.

The Star Tribune gives this account of the incident at SuperAmerica as set forth in the criminal complaint:

Jordan Gatrell told police that he went outside to get something and was followed into the gas station by Bell. The suspect put a gun against Jordan Gatrell’s back and ordered him into the cash register area to get money.

Jason Gatrell was in a backroom washing dishes. Bell saw him and ordered him to the ground. Jordan Gatrell was getting money from the register when Jason Gatrell grabbed for the gun. A struggle ensued, and the gun fired three to four times.

“I’m gonna shoot you, cuz,” Bell allegedly said during the struggle.

Jason Gatrell said last month that he intervened to protect his brother, and fell to the ground after being shot.

“I thought I was going to die, honestly,” Jason Gatrell said.

Jordan Gatrell punched Bell in the face and jumped across the counter to call police, according to the charges. Bell fled on foot.

In a case that sounds like a candidate for Forensic Files, police found sunglasses that fell off Bell’s face in the course of the melee. DNA tests on the sunglasses matched Bell’s DNA profile in the Minnesota Convicted Offender DNA Database. Bell is the owner of the DNA; he is a repeat offender. The Star Tribune provides the dry recap of Bell’s identification via the complaint:

Surveillance video captured the attack. The suspect’s clothing matched clothing later found at Bell’s home [in LeSueur, Minnesota] on Jan. 2. Bell’s father and his father’s girlfriend also allegedly identified Bell as the man captured in a video still, according to the complaint.

The investigation also showed that a person matching the shooter’s description had visited a Holiday Gas station about six blocks south of the SuperAmerica about 4:11 p.m. that day.

Bell allegedly told police that he was in Le Sueur for Thanksgiving, but “could not recall any specifics,” the charges said. He previously pleaded guilty in Hennepin County District Court to robbing a man outside of a convenience store.

In good journalistic fashion the Star Tribune refers to Bell as the “suspect,” but law enforcement authorities have apprehended the perpetrator and deserve our thanks.


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