By Joe Kimball
As he led police on a chase down St. Paul's busy E. 7th Street on Monday morning, authorities said, Mitchell Moua turned and fired a handgun at the pursuing officers through the rear window of his Acura sport-utility vehicle.
The officers held their fire as they dodged cars and trucks on the commercial and industrial roadway, police said; too many innocent people were on the road and sidewalks at 11:30 a.m.
But when Moua lost control of his vehicle at 7th and Arcade Streets, officers closed in on foot. Moua fired, police said; officers fired back, at least a dozen times. When they reached the car, they found that Moua had a gunshot wound to the head.
A short time later, he was pronounced dead at Regions Hospital.
No one else was injured in the hail of gunfire outside the Animal Ark Thrift Shop, 809 E. 7th St., but three police bullets hit the store's large pane-glass windows.
Although police say they believe the fatal wound came from a police bullet, Moua had pointed the gun at his own head earlier in the confrontation, police spokesman Tom Walsh said.
"So it is possible he shot himself," Walsh said. He said a medical examiner's investigation will determine whether the fatal wound was self-inflicted or from a police bullet.
The encounter had begun only moments before and less than a mile away, in an alley on the 1000 block of Ross Avenue. St. Paul police and the Minnesota Gang Strike Force had received information that Moua would be in that area.
Moua, 25, of Minneapolis, was wanted on aggravated assault, false imprisonment and federal weapons charges.
When Moua arrived and police confronted him, he brandished a gun and pointed it at his own head, Walsh said. Then two people with Moua abandoned the SUV, and the chase was on.
During the pursuit, Moua fired back at police at least twice, one time at 7th and Atlantic Street east of where the chase began, Walsh said. No one was hit, and police held their fire.
As the speeding cars neared Arcade Street, a van and a semitrailer truck attempted to pull over. Moua tried to pass between the two vehicles, but hit the truck and careened into a parked car. That's when the two police officers returned Moua's fire.
Small orange cones marked at least twelve spots on the street where used bullet casings were found in front of the thrift shop. A shop employee and customer saw or heard the shooting through the large windows, and were later questioned by police as witnesses. Other people nearby heard the crash and ensuing shots, and ran for cover.
A Mercury station wagon belonging to the thrift-shop customer was severely damaged by the SUV that Moua was driving. Before being driven to the East Side police headquarters, the customer was allowed to retrieve a Bible from her smashed car.
The two St. Paul officers involved in the shooting were not named Monday night. Walsh said they will be placed on administrative leave pending an investigation, as is typically done when officers are involved in a shooting.
A person who answered the door at Moua's home on Monday night said the family wasn't ready to speak yet.
Staff writers Curt Brown and Tom Ford contributed to this report.
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Minn. police chase ends in gunfire, death