ST. PAUL — Javier Sanmiguel Yanez and his wife were getting ready for bed Monday night, Sept. 9, when they heard a car crash outside their St. Paul home.
Sanmiguel Yanez went to investigate, while his wife called 911.
Moments later, Kayla Sanmiguel Yanez heard gunshots and a woman’s scream. Then she saw her husband, a father of four, fall to the ground.
A neighbor held her back as she tried to run to him. Then more gunfire rang out.
Police found Javier Sanmiguel Yanez with a gunshot to his head behind a Ford Escape at the intersection of Case Avenue and Edgerton Street around 10 p.m. Monday.
The 31-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene, and people who knew him were reeling over the loss of a good man.
The lone occupant of the Ford Escape, Lionel Keejuan Eaton, was charged Tuesday with Sanmiguel Yanez’s murder.
The events were outlined in a criminal complaint charging the 27-year-old Roseville man with one count of second-degree murder committed during a drive-by shooting, and a second count of third-degree murder.
Defendant fired from trunk of hatchback, charges say
Eaton holed in the back of his vehicle after the multi-vehicle crash in which he rear-ended another vehicle exiting an alley onto southbound Edgerton Street, authorities say.
The impact caused a female driver to strike several other parked cars in the area, including Sanmiguel Yanez’s van.
The woman, who was uninjured, told police that the crash caused several residents to come outside to try and help, Sanmiguel Yanez among them.
The group went to check on the condition of the driver of the Escape, but it was difficult to see inside with airbags deployed.
As several of the residents pressed their faces against the vehicle’s window, Eaton “let out a shot from inside the trunk,” the complaint said, followed by several more.
A resident near the scene told police the gunfire rang out as someone tried to open the hatch after several people had knocked on the Escape’s windows to no avail.
As the group scattered, he saw his neighbor, Sanmiguel Yanez on the ground.
Defendant's mom: Son was acting 'paranoid and erratic' before shooting
Eaton’s mother showed up at the scene after the shooting, and told police that her son acted “paranoid and erratic” lately and voiced concerns that someone was trying to kill him, the complaint said.
She was on the phone with him trying to determine his location so she could get him to a hospital when she said the phone “suddenly went silent.”
In an interview with police after the shooting, Eaton told officers that he was “rammed” by another vehicle and that he hit his head and then thought he heard gunshots, the complaint said.
He said he was panicked and scared, so he fired the shots, adding that he hadn’t been aiming at any target at the time, according to the complaint. He went on to tell officers that he doesn’t own a gun and that someone had given him the one used in Monday’s shooting earlier that night.
Neighbor held back wife as she ran to him
Dan Thompson, a neighbor of Sanmiguel Yanez, ran out of his house after hearing the gunfire Monday night.
He saw Sanmiguel Yanez wounded, and said he could tell he “was gone immediately.”
Thompson stopped Kayla Sanmiguel Yanez as she tried to run to him because he was fearful of the shooter’s next moves. Thompson held her behind another vehicle as the driver started shooting again -- Thompson said he heard five to six more shots. The two ducked and police soon arrived.
Thompson said it wasn’t a surprise that Sanmiguel Yanez would run to someone’s aid.
“The world really lost a good man,” said Maya Thompson, Dan’s wife, after the shooting.
Sanmiguel Yanez recently got into boxing and was going to have his first match this weekend, Dan Thompson said.
Owens Peterson Jr., who also was a neighbor, said he used to see Sanmiguel Yanez lifting weights in his yard at about 6 o'clock in the morning.
"He was a good neighbor, always friendly," Peterson said. "It's a tragedy and I'm sorry it happened to him."
Remembered as devout family man with deep faith
In addition to his wife, Sanmiguel Yanez left behind four young children.
The couple's lives seemed centered around family and their faith.
Kayla Sanmiguel Yanez, who used to work for the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity, blogged about her family’s faith for the website Mind and Spirit, which describes itself as an online magazine that explores the intersection of psychology and faith.
The couple created a mission statement to guide their family, according to statements they shared in an ebook called Head and Heart: Becoming Spiritual Leaders for your Family.
“To be a boldly Catholic family, seeking sanctity before all else, with visible faith, contagious joy, and genuine trust in Jesus Christ.”
Sanmiguel Yanez is quoted in the publication describing the importance of having a guiding statement for one’s family, and the challenge of living up to it.
“There will always be failure. That shouldn’t scare us,” he said. “Falling short helps us grow and acknowledge what we need to work on.”
Sanmiguel Yanez was remembered as a "faith-filled" family man by Karen Laird Tuesday.
Laird, director of marketing and communications for the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity, only met Sanmiguel Yanez a handful of times, but knew his wife more closely from the time she worked as an administrative assistant for the seminary.
"He was a lovely, hard-working, faith-filled individual ... definitely a wonderful husband and father," Laird said.
She offered prayers and love to his family on behalf of the seminary.
"We are a community of faith here and know that the Sanmiguels are faith-filled people and we just pray that the promise of the resurrection will sustain them in the days and months ahead," Laird said.
A relative of Kayla Sanmiguel Yanez reached Tuesday said the family was not ready to comment about the incident.
Court hearing scheduled for Wednesday
Eaton is expected to make his first appearance on the charges Wednesday morning. No attorney was listed for him in court records.
His criminal history includes misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor convictions, including one for possession of marijuana earlier this year and another for possession of a pistol without a permit in 2016.
Police found a black Smith and Wesson handgun in “plain sight” of the driver’s seat inside Eaton’s Ford Escape, along with a magazine on the passenger seat and multiple casings near the vehicle’s cargo area, the complaint said.