West St. Paul man pleads guilty to murder in fatal 2021 shooting of Woodbury man in Minneapolis

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A West St. Paul man pleaded guilty this week to a second-degree murder charge in the fatal 2021 shooting of a Woodbury man at a Minneapolis fast food drive-through.

Lionell Jacque Hicks, 32, admitted to gunning down Tu’quan Smith, also 32, outside a White Castle restaurant on Lake Street two years ago, according to a guilty plea filed Wednesday in Hennepin County District Court.

Hicks’ plea agreement with prosecutors calls for a sentence of more than 38 years in prison, according to a news release issued Thursday by the office of Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Nov. 21.

“This was a callous, destructive act that brought unimaginable pain to the victim’s family and my thoughts are with them today,” Moriarty said in the news release. “Prioritizing community safety is paramount. Communities are suffering because there are too many guns in irresponsible hands that cause minor incidents to turn violent — and deadly — far too often. When necessary, we will use long prison sentences to protect the community and incapacitate those who commit this violence.”

Minneapolis police were dispatched just before 2 a.m. on Aug. 12, 2021, to the White Castle at 100 W. Lake St., where they found Smith sitting unconscious in the driver’s seat of a car, according to the criminal complaint. Officers provided first aid, but paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene.

Witnesses told investigators that the victim and the driver of another vehicle were trying to leave the restaurant but were blocked by a red Jeep, in which Hicks was a passenger, the complaint said.

As the motorists maneuvered around the Jeep, words were exchanged between the occupants of the three vehicles, and Hicks leaned out a window of the Jeep and fired several shots into Smith’s car, striking him twice, according to the complaint.

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