A Minnesota man was charged with second degree murder after he shot and killed a Black man following a minor traffic accident.
The shooting occurred after 39-year-old Douglas C. Lewis rear-ended Anthony J. Trifiletti in St. Paul, Minnesota, on May 1, according to The Star Tribune. The men pulled over and a shouting match ensued. Trifiletti eventually told friends who were riding in a separate vehicle to leave the scene.
Trifiletti, 24, and one of his friends told investigators Lewis said, “I’m GD,” presumably a reference to membership in the Gangster Disciples gang, before both parties returned to their vehicles and drove off.
Trifiletti said he “unintentionally” followed Lewis before they pulled over and got out of their vehicles again. When Lewis began to walk toward him, Trifiletti opened fire and struck Lewis three or four times. Trifiletti fled the scene while witnesses tried to save Lewis’ life.
Lewis succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Trifiletti called his father, who convinced him to return to the scene. He was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. Trifiletti remains in jail on a $1 million bond. He claims he acted in self-defense because he “thought he was going to die and was afraid for his life.”
Unlike in states with so-called “stand your ground” laws, under Minnesota law, a citizen can only use to lethal force as a last resort. The statute states the person must be a reluctant participant who is facing imminent bodily harm or death. Additionally, the citizen has a duty to retreat and attempt to use lesser force. The only exemption to the duty to retreat is if the person is being threatened in their home.
“In this kid’s case, he has a duty to retreat,” Twin Cities-based attorney Joe Tamburino explained to The Star Tribune. “If you’re going to carry a gun — which you have the right to do — you’d better know when to pull the trigger.”
Witnesses discredited Trifiletti’s account and said they never heard Lewis say, “I’m GD” and the men were 10 feet apart when the shooting occurred. Additionally, Lewis was unarmed when he died.
Lewis is survived by Christine Hicks, his girlfriend of 15 years, and four children.
“I wish I could’ve said goodbye,” Hick told The Star Tribune.
Valerie Lewis, his sister, remembered him as her joyous protector.
“I have no idea what led up to this,” she said. “He always had a big old’ smile. … He made me feel so safe and protected.”
She believes her brother was a victim of Trifiletti’s bigotry.
“White people can get away with killing a black man by saying they were afraid,” Valerie Lewis said. “He killed my brother in cold blood.”