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Burnsville murder trial: Prosecution argues shooting was premeditated

BURNSVILLE, Minn. -- Bullet wounds to the back of Palagor Jobi's head were consistent with shots fired into someone face-down on the pavement, a medical examiner said Thursday. The testimony could undermine Shavelle Chavez-Nelson's claim that he ...

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BURNSVILLE, Minn. -- Bullet wounds to the back of Palagor Jobi’s head were consistent with shots fired into someone face-down on the pavement, a medical examiner said Thursday.

The testimony could undermine Shavelle Chavez-Nelson’s claim that he shot Jobi in self-defense and lend credence to the prosecution’s contention the killing was premeditated.

Chavez-Nelson, 32, is on trial in Dakota County District Court in Burnsville for killing Palagor Jobi, 23, outside a Burnsville bar near closing time on Sept. 22, 2013.

He admits to fatally shooting Jobi, but says he did so to stop Jobi from attacking him when the two got in a fight in the parking lot over a woman.

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Lorren Jackson, an assistant Hennepin County medical examiner, walked jurors through Jobi’s autopsy photos Thursday. He showed X-rays and close-up images of bullet holes, pointing out where each of the eight shots that stuck Jobi went in and in some cases came back out.

One bullet was still visibly lodged in Jobi’s cheek at the time of the autopsy.

Four of the wounds showed signs of a “shored” exit, Jackson said. That means the body was pressed up against a hard surface like a wall or the ground where the bullet came out, producing additional trauma to the skin.

Three of those were shots to the back and side of Jobi’s head. One was a shot to the back.

Jackson said he couldn’t say for certain Jobi was against the pavement of the parking lot when those wounds occurred. He could also have been against a nearby car, he said.

Prosecutor Kathryn Keena has already shown jurors photos of the parking lot asphalt beneath Jobi’s head, pocked with what police described as likely bullet indents. She asked Jackson if a shored wound might produce such marks.

It might, he said.

Defense attorney Erin Carey asked if he could tell the order of the gunshots, how much time elapsed between each one, or what position Jobi was in when they were fired.

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Jackson said he couldn’t determine those things from the autopsy. He also said he could only determine a rough range of a few millimeters to several feet for one of the shots; the rest were indeterminate.

Jobi also has a skull fracture and blunt force injuries to his head.

Keena asked if those could have been from falling to the ground.

Jackson said they could.

Earlier in the day, jurors saw police dashboard video of the brief but high-octane chase through Rosemount that ended in Chavez-Nelson’s arrest two days after the shooting.

Police were outside his girlfriend’s townhome staking out a vehicle that had been tied to Chavez-Nelson when they saw him start to drive away. A marked squad car moved to pull him over.

For a moment, it looked like he might stop: He slowed and started to go to the shoulder. Then he hit the gas and sped off, hitting 80 mph on Shannon Parkway with police in pursuit.

Jurors gasped at footage of Chavez-Nelson narrowly avoiding collisions as he blew through red lights and stop signs. He eventually overshot a turn at Highway 46, wound up in the oncoming traffic lane and fled on foot into a nearby gravel pit.

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Police arrested him there without a struggle. He was unarmed. Aided by a metal detector and a trained search dog, officers found a gun magazine and pistol in a field near the scene. Both items were shown to jurors Thursday.

Rosemount police detective John Winters said officers went in with guns drawn because they believed Chavez-Nelson to be armed and dangerous. He testified he’d seen Chavez-Nelson move as if reaching for something while driving, further heightening concern for officer safety.

Carey tried to tie those fears - and the officers’ willingness to use deadly force to end a threat - to Chavez-Nelson’s own mindset when he fought and shot Jobi.

Keena objected, and Dakota County District Court Judge Kathryn Messerich shut down the line of questioning. The judge said the two situations were very different.

Lakeville police officer Brad Paulson, one of the arresting officers, said Chavez-Nelson offered an explanation for fleeing.

“He mentioned that he had an expired drivers license and he didn’t want to be stopped because of that,” Paulson said.

Today is expected to the last day of testimony for prosecution witnesses. A morning hearing before the trial resumes will determine whether Ashley Conrade, Chavez-Nelson’s girlfriend, will have to testify.

Jobi’s comments to Conrade outside the bar sparked the dispute with Chavez-Nelson.

Conrade and Chavez-Nelson also are both charged with killing another woman, Anarae Schunk, who was with them at the bar that night. Schunk, a 20-year-old University of Minnesota student, was Chavez-Nelson’s ex-girlfriend. She went missing after the shooting and was found stabbed to death eight days later in Rice County.

Conrade’s testimony in the Jobi trial could not be used against her in the Schunk case. She and Chavez-Nelson are scheduled to stand trial separately for Schunk’s death in 2015.

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