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Associated Press, Published June 12 2013

Suspect in random shooting had prior contact with police

ST. PAUL – A man charged in a random shooting that killed a boy in a St. Paul suburb had called police a few weeks earlier to complain he was being followed and ask whether he could shoot his alleged stalkers, according to a published report.

The officer who took Nhan Lap Tran’s call told him “absolutely not” but then made a judgment call as to whether Tran was a real threat and chose not to write a report on the contact, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

The call took place Jan. 21, about three weeks before Tran was arrested and accused of a shooting rampage in his Oakdale neighborhood. Tran was charged with second-degree murder and other felonies, but last month was judged incompetent to stand trial.

Oakdale Police Chief Bill Sullivan said he stands by his officer.

“The officer, Tina Voss, should have done an initial complaint report. The context should have been documented just because of the odd nature of the request,” Sullivan told the newspaper. “But based on my conversation with Tina and the information available to her that day, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome.”

Tran had called police twice before, in September 2011 to report a suspicious vehicle and in June 2012 to apply for a permit to buy a handgun. When he called on Jan. 21, he asked to speak to Voss because he had talked to her before about being followed, she wrote in the report she ultimately filed after the shooting rampage.

“I asked Tran if people had been continuing to follow him for the past couple of years why hadn’t he been reporting it. Tran said he didn’t want people to think that he was crazy,” Voss wrote in her report. She said Tran was unable to give her specifics on the vehicles or people he thought were following him and that he couldn’t tell her who “they” were.

“Tran then asked if these people continued to follow him if he could shoot them,” Voss wrote. “I told Tran absolutely not, he could not shoot someone for following him around. I told Tran he needed to get the incidents documented so it could be determined if he was being followed. Tran grew angry and began arguing with me about why he couldn’t shoot someone for stalking him.”

Tran was arrested Feb. 11 and accused of firing at passing vehicles as he walked down the middle of a residential area. Devin Aryal, a fourth-grader, was killed and others wounded.

Tran’s family released a statement in March saying Tran had been ill for years and was troubled by thoughts of being followed. They said he didn’t get help because he didn’t think he needed it and the family had no insurance.

Devin’s mother, Melissa Aryal, said if Tran’s mental issues had been addressed, her son’s life might have been saved.

“It makes me more angry, because it could have been prevented,” Aryal said. “Whether it was the authorities or the family or if somebody would have stepped in, if they would have seen the red flags. My poor child’s life had to be lost because of it.”