A St. Paul teen who Michael Brasel tried to stop from rummaging through his wife’s car before he was fatally shot was sentenced to 15 years in prison Thursday for his role in the slaying.
Ta Mla, 18, had pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder in connection with the May 6 killing of Brasel, a 44-year-old husband, father of two boys and youth hockey coach who was shot by Ta Mla’s friend, Kle Swee. In exchange for the plea, a charge of second-degree murder with intent was dismissed Thursday.
Ta Mla (Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office)
In October, Kle Swee was given a 25½-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree intentional murder. He was 17 at the time of the killing.
Before Ramsey County District Judge Timothy Carey issued Ta Mla’s sentence, the courtroom heard emotional victim impact statements from Brasel’s wife, Hilary Brasel, and his father-in-law, Kent Peterson, and several friends. Hilary and Michael met at Cretin-Derham Hall High School when they were freshmen. They parted ways after Hilary changed schools, but were reintroduced in college. They married in June 2005.
Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Elizabeth Lamin noted how Ta Mla had two prior juvenile cases involving possession of pistols. She called Brasel’s murder a “senseless and brazen act of violence” and said the plea agreement is meant to “provide family closure, and early acceptance of responsibility.”
“We hope (Ta Mla) takes this time to change,” Lamin added, “and that the Brasel family will be able to move on to another stage of grief.”
Before Ta Mla heard his sentence, he told Brasel’s family and friends that he was sorry for their loss. He apologized.
From the kitchen window, Michael Brasel saw Ta Mla inside his wife’s Ford Flex. When Brasel confronted Ta Mla, Kle Swee grabbed Ta Mla’s gun and shot him three times — once in the chest, abdomen and back, prosecutors said.
Officers who responded to the shooting at 7:21 a.m. found Brasel in his front yard in the 2300 block of Chilcombe Ave. Hilary, a registered nurse, gave him chest compressions and yelled for help. He died of multiple gunshot wounds a short time later at a hospital.
The Brasels’ two children were fifth- and eighth-graders at the time. One was inside the house when he heard his father yell from outside, “What are you doing?” followed by gunshots.
Michael Brasel, 44, was fatally shot in St. Paul on May 6, 2023. (Courtesy of the family)
Officers saw that the family’s Ford Flex, which was parked on the street, appeared to have been rummaged through, with a small bag and a phone-charging cable near the front seat. Testing linked DNA on the bag to Ta Mla.
Police on June 6 stopped a vehicle that Ta Mla was a passenger in and arrested him. They found a Glock handgun in the vehicle, which he later told police was the same gun used to shoot Brasel.
The charges said Brasel “surprised Ta Mla and grabbed Ta Mla from behind. Ta Mla heard one or two shots. After the shots were fired, Ta Mla drove off.”
Ta Mla’s girlfriend reported that he was with Kle Swee rummaging through cars “when a man came out and put Ta Mla in a chokehold” and that Kle Swee shot the man, the charges read.
Ta Mla told police that Kle Swee felt bad for shooting Brasel. He said they talked about it and he told Kle Swee “that God knows what they did,” the charges read. “Ta Mla said (Brasel) was an innocent guy.”
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