Wednesday, July 8, 2020

DA Declines to File Charges in Blue Lake Gas Station Killing

Posted By on Wed, Jul 8, 2020 at 4:34 PM

click to enlarge Patriot Gas Station - ASHLEY HARRELL
  • Ashley Harrell
  • Patriot Gas Station

Humboldt County District Attorney Maggie Fleming has declined to prosecute Patriot Gas Station clerk Mark Anthony Nelson Jr. for killing the man who allegedly robbed the business on the night of July 2, according to a press release from the DA’s office.

“The employee has stated he acted in self-defense,” the press release states. “No witness statements or other evidence contradict that assertion.”

Nelson told investigators that he possessed a reportedly stolen gun in response to a prior robbery at the gas station, according to the press release.  Although Nelson was arrested by the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department on suspicion of murder, possessing stolen property and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm — and has been held in the county jail without bail since July 3 — today he will be released.

“Oh, hell yeah!” said Cynthia Shelton, Nelson’s partner, reached by cell phone minutes after the DA’s decision was announced. Shelton and the couple’s 14-year-old daughter had stationed themselves in front of the jail, and were eagerly awaiting Nelson’s release from custody.

Also reached by phone, Nelson’s attorney Russell Clanton said he was working on getting Nelson out of custody, and then planned to take the rest of the day off to celebrate.

“It’s a really great moment,” Clanton said.

After the DA declined to file charges, the Sheriff's Office put out its own press release stating that despite the arrest, department's investigators have also come to believe Nelson acted in self-defense.

Sheriff's deputies were dispatched to the Patriot gas station on July 2 at 9:45 p.m. after a report of an armed robbery with shots fired. "Deputies located an unidentified male subject outside of the business with a gunshot wound to the chest," the press release states. "Despite lifesaving efforts, the man succumbed to his injuries on the scene."  


Upon initial investigation, deputies learned that the wounded man was the suspect attempting to rob the business, the press release states. The man allegedly approached an employee, later identified as Nelson, and a patron, who were outside of the business. The subject allegedly brandished what appeared to be a firearm and the two fled before the man entered the store and proceeded with the robbery. The man was later shot when he exited the business.

"Investigators interviewed witnesses and served a search warrant at the business. During the search, deputies located a stolen firearm which had been concealed inside the business," the press release states. "Investigators also reviewed surveillance footage depicting the inside of the business. It should be noted that the business did not have functioning surveillance cameras outside the business, where the shooting occurred, thus complicating the investigation."

While providing an initial statement, Nelson denied shooting the robbery suspect and provided information inconsistent with the evidence at the scene, according to the Sheriff's Office.

"Nelson also denied possession of the stolen firearm. Through further investigation, it was determined that Nelson made efforts to conceal the firearm prior to law enforcement arrival. A bullet consistent with evidence collected at the scene was located in Nelson's pocket during a search of his person," the press release states.

Based upon evidence gained through the investigation, the Sherriff's Office determined that Nelson, who is legally prohibited from possessing weapons, had been in possession of the stolen firearm and had used the firearm to shoot the robbery suspect. With consideration of all these investigative pieces, investigators arrested Nelson, the press release states.


Over the next few days, the sheriff's department continued its investigation and re-interviewed subjects. On the evening of July 5, the Sheriff’s Office was contacted to file a missing person’s report for 53-year-old Jeffrey Allen Kirwan of Santa Rosa. Based upon the facts of the missing person’s report, investigators determined that he may be the still unidentified robbery suspect. Fingerprints later confirmed that to be the case, the press release states.

On July 7, Nelson agreed to again speak with investigators, according to the Sheriff's Office, and reportedly admitted to shooting the robbery suspect but claimed the shooting was in self-defense.

"This statement was consistent with the investigation and evidence located at the scene," the press release states.

Based upon the continued investigation and the totality of evidence reviewed to date, investigators have determined Nelson to have acted in self-defense. Additionally, through further investigation, deputies have named Kirwan as a possible suspect in a recent robbery at a Trinidad business. The investigation into that case is ongoing.

Over in Blue Lake, many residents are relieved that Nelson will be freed, and some are even celebrating him as a hero.

To those who frequented the Patriot, Nelson was not just any gas station clerk. When they heard of the incident, residents approached Clanton, the lawyer, and convinced him to take the case pro bono even as others were setting up GoFundMe pages to raise money for Nelson's legal defense. One of those pages was created by Blue Lake Casino card dealer Phil Monteith, who first met Nelson when he moved to the town in March. He liked Nelson immediately.

“Every time I saw the guy, he was smiling away, chatting about life and sharing positivity,” Monteith said. “That’s all too rare in this world.”


Meanwhile, hundreds of commenters on social media defended Nelson’s character:

“This man was so nice to me on my birthday … I could not say enough good things about his positive attitude & kindness. Heartbreaking circumstance for a man obviously trying hard to be a positive functioning member of society,” one Facebook user wrote.

“This man is one of the kindest gas station employees I've ever had the pleasure of being rung up by,” wrote another.

The praise goes on and on: “Good peeps.” “Coolest guy ever.” “He should be given a medal.” “Free Mark.”

Shelton knew that Nelson was a good guy, she says, but the overwhelming support from mostly white Blue Lake for Nelson — who is black — well, that came as a surprise.

“I didn’t know it was that deep,” she said of the impact he's had on customers. “I’m so happy for that.”

See the full press releases from the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office and the District Attorney's Office copied below:

Blue Lake shooting determined self-defense
Sheriff Star
Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office investigators have determined the suspect of last week’s homicide in Blue Lake acted in self-defense.

On July 2, 2020, at about 9:45 p.m., Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to a business on the 200 block of Blue Lake Blvd. in Blue Lake for the report of an armed robbery with shots fired. Deputies located an unidentified male subject outside of the business with a gunshot wound to the chest. Despite lifesaving efforts, the man succumbed to his injuries on scene.

Upon initial investigation, deputies learned that the male subject was the suspect attempting to rob the business. The man approached an employee, later identified as 39-year-old Mark Anthony Nelson Jr., and a patron, who were outside of the business. The subject brandished what appeared to be a firearm and the two fled. The man entered the store and proceeded with the robbery. The man was later shot when he exited the business.

Humboldt County Sheriff’s Criminal Investigators responded to the scene to begin their investigation. As part of that investigation, investigators interviewed witnesses and served a search warrant at the business. During the search, deputies located a stolen firearm which had been concealed inside the business. Investigators also reviewed surveillance footage depicting the inside of the business. It should be noted that the business did not have functioning surveillance cameras outside the business, where the shooting occurred, thus complicating the investigation.

While providing an initial statement, Nelson Jr. denied shooting the robbery suspect and provided information inconsistent with the evidence at the scene. Nelson Jr. also denied possession of the stolen firearm. Through further investigation, it was determined that Nelson Jr. made efforts to conceal the firearm prior to law enforcement arrival. A bullet consistent with evidence collected at the scene was located in Nelson Jr.’s pocket during a search of his person.

Based upon evidence gained through the investigation, it was determined that Nelson Jr., who is legally prohibited from possessing weapons, had been in possession of the stolen firearm and had used the firearm to shoot the robbery suspect. With consideration of all these investigative pieces, investigators arrested Nelson Jr. for violations of murder (PC 187(a)), possession of stolen property (PC 496(a)) and convicted felon in possession of a firearm (PC 29800(a)).

Investigators continued their investigation in the following days, re-interviewing subjects and further examining evidence. As part of this investigation, associated electronic devices and vehicles were searched.

On the evening of July 5, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office was contacted to file a missing person’s report for 53-year-old Jeffrey Allen Kirwan of Santa Rosa. Based upon the facts of the missing person’s report, investigators determined that the missing person may be the unidentified decedent from the robbery and homicide in Blue Lake.

The decedent of the homicide was later confirmed as Kirwan through fingerprints.

On July 7, Nelson Jr. agreed to provide an additional statement to investigators. While speaking with investigators, Nelson Jr. admitted to shooting the robbery suspect and asserted that the shooting was in self-defense. This statement was consistent with the investigation and evidence located at the scene.

Based upon the continued investigation and the totality of evidence reviewed to date, investigators have determined Nelson Jr. to have acted in self-defense. Nelson Jr. will be released from the Humboldt County Correctional Facility pursuant to PC 849(b)(1).

Additionally, through further investigation, deputies have determined the decedent, Kirwan, to be a possible suspect of a recent robbery at a Trinidad business. The investigation into that case is ongoing.

All information collected through this investigation will be submitted to the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office for review and a final determination of charges.

Facebook Opens in new window

Twitter Opens in new window

Share Via Email Opens in new window

NEWS RELEASE

July 8, 2020


No charges in the Blue Lake robbery-related homicide

Humboldt County District Attorney (DA) Maggie Fleming has declined to prosecute the employee of the Patriot Gas Station in Blue Lake for killing the person who robbed that business on the night of July 2, 2020. The employee has stated he acted in self-defense. No witness statements or other evidence contradict that assertion. The employee also stated he possessed a gun in response to a recent prior robbery at his workplace. In reaching her decision before the person arrested had to be either charged or released – within 2 court days of their arrest – the DA benefitted from a complete and efficient investigation by the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office.
  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , , ,

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

more from the author

© 2020 North Coast Journal

Website powered by Foundation