A man charged Thursday with fatally shooting a 59-year-old in St. Paul told police that he feared he was going to be stabbed during a fight.
But an investigator informed Payton Lee Wood, 22, that the man he shot was not the one with the knife.
The Ramsey County attorney’s office charged Wood with second-degree murder.
Jeffrey C. Foss was found dead on a sidewalk in front of a Frogtown apartment building, where Wood resided, at about 3 a.m. last Friday.
A bystander, identified in the complaint as DF, reported that he was hanging out with friends in remembrance of a friend who recently died and Wood drove him home. They saw two men walking near picnic tables who were looking at liquor bottles and cigarette packs on the tables. Wood asked one of the men what they were doing and told him the items on the tables were “their stuff.”
MR, who was with Foss, told Wood that whatever was left on the table by the street was “fair game.”
Foss said, “We mean no harm,” according to the complaint. DF said he “didn’t understand why Wood was making a big deal out of it since the bottles and cigarette packs were empty,” the complaint continued.
Wood and MR fought. When MR had Wood by the neck, DF removed MR’s hold. MR grabbed a knife and dropped it in the street.
Wood went toward his vehicle and MR punctured one of his tires with a knife. MR later told police he did it to prevent Wood and another man from chasing him and Foss. He said he yelled for Foss to run and, after MR rounded a corner, he heard a gunshot.
On Wednesday, Wood and his attorney met with police investigators. Wood said when they returned to the area they found two men going through their alcohol and cigarettes on the picnic tables.
“One of the men got argumentative and used racial slurs when confronted,” the complaint said of what Wood related to police. “Wood told the man they could fight, and Wood and the other fought. The man had Wood in a choke hold at one point.”
Wood said the man swung a knife at him, he and DF backed away, and the man followed them to his vehicle. He said he grabbed a gun from the truck and fired once when the man with the knife was about 5 feet from him.
“Wood said he feared the man was going to stab him or come back later to do something,” the complaint said.
When an investigator told Wood the man he shot was not the one with the knife and “was much farther away than 5 feet, Wood indicated that his version was how he recalled the incident,” the complaint continued.
Wood said he had the gun for protection because of problems in the area. He said he threw it in the Mississippi River and someone got rid of his clothes.
An autopsy found a bullet had entered the back of Foss’s head.
Wood’s attorney wasn’t immediately available for comment Thursday.