ST. PAUL -- As Jeff Mintz drove in St. Paul on a December night, there was no sign he knew what was ahead — that a vehicle had stopped and someone inside was waiting to shoot him, a homicide investigator said recently.
“He was a decent man who was just running errands or going about his life, and sadly it got taken from him for what looks like absolutely no reason,” said Sgt. Eric Skog.
Police and the family of Mintz, 55, are urging anyone with information to come forward. No one has been arrested. Investigators have collected video evidence, which points to the suspect vehicle running a red light a few blocks north of Snelling and University avenues.
Mintz was driving in the intersection and videos do not shed light about his reaction — other than the fact that he continued on. Lee Mintz said it wouldn’t have surprised him if his father honked his horn, though the videos don’t include audio.
“It honestly seemed like such a nothing deal that it shocks the conscience that it would lead to Jeffery being murdered,” Skog said. “… It was definitely an intentional period of time where the person appeared to wait for him.”
Mintz was shot on Dec. 16, a Wednesday, at 9:43 p.m. His family and police are asking anyone who was in the area of Snelling and University avenues or the surrounding blocks before, during or after the shooting to contact investigators.
“My biggest hope is that there’s someone who saw something and didn’t quite realize what it was,” Lee Mintz said. “Something this random and crazy, it has no business happening to a family.”
Close to home
Jeff Mintz lived in the Hamline-Midway area and wasn’t far from home when he was shot. He may have been going to a store, but that’s unknown, Skog said.
He grew up in the Chicago area, the third of four brothers. Music was a big part of their lives — “we all used to dress up in Beatles wigs and dance around the living room,” said Steve Mintz, one of Jeff’s brothers.
Jeff Mintz resided in Rochester, Minn., for years, where he and his wife raised their two children, and he was president of his synagogue and an attorney specializing in family law and personal injury.
After he was killed, his family heard from former clients who became friends and Steve Mintz said a theme emerged in their stories: Jeff helped them during difficult divorces, including trying to ease their burdens by allowing for payment plans that spanned years.
In recent years, Jeff Mintz went through his own rough patch. He got divorced and moved into what had been his investment property in St. Paul. He put his hope and finances into starting a business, which made recycled products into building materials, but it didn’t work out, his brother said.
He began driving for Uber and then Uber Eats to avoid contact with passengers during the coronavirus pandemic, though there’s no record that he was working at the time he was shot, Skog said.
In the months before Jeff was killed, “he had really begun to emerge from a funk,” Steve said. He was looking forward to his daughter’s wedding in the beginning of January. He’d been singing more, which was his passion, and he set up his own mini karaoke studio at his home since bars were closed.
“One of the things he said in our last conversation was, ‘I’m going to focus on spending time with people that I care about, doing things that bring me joy and bring others joy,'” Steve Mintz said.
‘Chance encounter’ on a December night
The shooting on Dec. 16 appears to be a “super random kind of occurrence,” Skog said.
Cameras in the area didn’t show stop lights, but based on traffic flow, it looked like the suspect vehicle ran a red light, according to Skog.
“We do believe it was a chance encounter and there’s no indication that Jeffery Mintz was doing anything other than just traveling,” Skog said. “I’m quite certain he just was not aware of anything that was problematic for him and just never saw this coming.”
How did the incident end in a shooting? Skog and investigators wonder whether the suspect was angry because he thought Mintz was the one who went through a red light, though that’s “no reason to murder someone,” he added.
As Mintz drove south on Snelling Avenue, just north of University Avenue, police believe someone in the suspect vehicle shot him. He was struck in the side and managed to pull to the curb and call 911. He told officers he had no idea who shot him or why. Mintz died early Dec. 17 at the hospital.
Looking for tips
Investigators have interviewed dozens of potential witnesses, reviewed surveillance video and searched the area. They continue to analyze video footage, trying to identify the suspect or suspect vehicle, Skog said.
A driver who stopped to help hadn’t realized there had been a shooting until she saw Mintz and wasn’t able to provide a description of the suspect vehicle because she didn’t see what happened, Skog said.
Police are looking for other people who were in the area just before or after the shooting who might not have “realized how serious it was and just haven’t come forward,” Skog said. They’re also curious if the shooter has divulged information to anyone.
“Jeff didn’t deserve what happened to him,” Steve Mintz said. “One of our family members said, ‘It’s incredibly unfair that the person who pulled the trigger is walking around free and Jeff is no longer with us.'”
Investigators ask anyone with information to call them at 651-266-5650 or Crime Stoppers of Minnesota at 800-222-8477. People can submit tips anonymously.