By Scott Carlson
Haunted by bad choices
When I returned home this past weekend from a church retreat in Wisconsin, I was feeling relaxed and refreshed.
But after I unpacked and got caught up on our local news, I learned of a tragic event that occurred close to home, leaving me feeling sick in the pit of my stomach: St. Anthony Park resident Michael Brasel, 44, was shot dead in his front yard Saturday morning by an assailant attempting to break into his wife’s car.
At a time when escalating gun violence is gripping our nation, the Brasel murder is a sobering reminder that none of us is immune from such crime and no place is absolutely safe.
St. Anthony Park with its quaint shops, tree-lined boulevards and old-time public library is generally a quiet, sleepy neighborhood not accustomed to such violence.
At the St. Anthony Park District 12 Community Council board meeting on May 11, two St. Paul police officials said that generally the crime rate in the St. Anthony Park area is low.
In fact, across the entire city, overall major crime in several categories, including murder, is down 35 percent for the first four months this year compared with the same period a year ago, they said.
For example, St. Anthony Park had logged 97 thefts for the first four months of 2023, down from 122 for the same period in 2022, said Stacy Murphy, St. Paul Police Department West District watch commander.
Still, Murphy acknowledged that people’s feelings about their personal safety may be at odds with what is happening with the state of crime statistics. After Brasel’s murder, “I am sure people (in St. Anthony Park) are scared,” she said.
Patricia Lammers, St. Paul Police Department crime prevention coordinator, told District 12 board members that citizens, no matter where they live, they need to take precautions to safeguard themselves. “Be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention to where you are.”
For example, if you hear trouble in your neighborhood, consider calling 911 first, before you do anything that could put yourself in harm’s path, Murphy and Lammers said.
Sadly, it turned deadly for Brasel when he confronted his assailant. Of course, he could have never imagined his action would lead to that.
But if we could turn back time for Michael Brasel, we all would wish he had called 911 for help and let the police handle the situation.
Brasel’s assailant will also forever be haunted by making an incredibly stupid decision to put the potential gain from a car theft ahead of another man’s life.
Five days after the shooting, St. Paul Police had a 17-year-old male suspect in custody.
If police have nabbed the right perpetrator, did that young man panic in the confrontation with Brasel in pulling the trigger?
And what was a 17-year-old kid doing with a handgun in the first place?
Sadly, two individuals will be forever haunted by the choices they made. One can only wish the hands of time could be turned back to erase that reality.
Scott Carlson is managing editor of the Bugle.