Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter is working to ban firearms in city libraries and recreation centers, among other initiatives to curb youth violence, in the wake of the January 18 shooting that left a 16-year-old boy critically injured outside the Oxford Community Center, 270 N. Lexington Pkwy.

Oxford, along with its Jimmy Lee Recreation Center and Great River Water Park, remained closed until further notice in the wake of the shooting. The teen was shot by Exavir Dwayne Binford Jr., 26, who was a Jimmy Lee staff member at the time.

Binford has since been terminated by the city. He is in the Ramsey County jail, charged with second-degree attempted murder and first-degree assault. His bail was set at $500,000.

Outside firm to audit rec center policies

Carter announced on January 23 that the city is hiring an outside firm to audit recreation center policies. Carter, who did not take questions after the press conference, said city officials are aware of new information involving Binford’s history. That includes an incident in 2019 in which he was suspended for five days regarding another altercation with a teen at a city rec center.

“This new information raises urgent questions—not only about his conduct, but about our systems to identify, investigate and intervene in response to incidents and reports of behavior which fall beneath our standards,” Carter said.

Mayor wants guns banned from rec centers, libraries

A major concern for Carter and other city leaders is that state law on conceal and carry allows people with gun permits to bring their weapons into libraries and recreation centers. The mayor said that needs to be changed by the state Legislature. Binford reportedly has had a permit to carry a firearm since September 2022.

Carter referred to recreation centers as “sacred spaces” and said it is unthinkable that a young person was shot by an adult who was employed to care for him.


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“We will never take for granted the trust that our young people and families place in our recreation centers,” Carter said.

“We will never take for granted the trust that our young people and families place in our recreation centers,” Carter said.

Conflicts among high school teens

Carter, who described himself as a product of the city’s recreation center system, said he and other city leaders have heard concerns about conflicts when school lets out and hundreds of unsupervised youths congregate in public spaces. He said that is another issue that must be addressed with discussions among the Saint Paul Public Schools, Metro Transit and the city.

In a statement on January 25 about the shooting and Oxford’s future, Ward 1 City Council member Russel Balenger recognized JK Movement founder Johnny Allen for stepping up to aid the victim immediately after the incident. JK Movement runs a youth program at Oxford in space that previously housed the Loft Teen Center. Allen, city staff members including a lifeguard, and teens helped the victim until medics arrived.

JK Movement has been working with youths after the shooting, as has the Black Youth Healing Arts Center in Frogtown. Families that use Jimmy Lee for services such as the Rec Check afterschool program are being directed to other centers. Balenger said families will be part of the discussion regarding plans to reopen Oxford.

Shooter’s background raises concerns

Binford’s background was cited by the mayor as concerning. Binford worked for the Department of Parks and Recreation as an intern in 2013 and then returned in 2015. He worked at various centers, including at Duluth & Case and then Arlington Hills. Binford was transferred to Jimmy Lee in August 2022 and employed as a community recreation specialist.

Records indicate three actions were taken during Binford’s employment with the city. In December 2019 he was suspended for five days after fighting with a youth at Arlington Hills. A second complaint was closed without disciplinary action and a third complaint is active.

His criminal record shows minor offenses, such as driving without a license, misdemeanor theft and marijuana possession.

Problems arose after Central let out

The criminal complaint for the January 18 incident states that Binford had a “problem” with the shooting victim, who is identified in the complaint as JT. Binford said the teenager and a group of young people fought at nearby Central High School that day, and then at Jimmy Lee. He said Central staff contacted recreation center employees about trouble at the school. Doors were locked so that nothing would happen at the center, but a fight among girls began.

A witness told authorities that Binford went outside and told the students to leave. Police came, but left after things
quieted down.

A girl from the group allegedly let her brother back into Oxford at one point. He reportedly was part of a group causing trouble and was not supposed to be in the building. Binford became angry, clocked out and left. He told the girl to shut up when he heard her talk about him as he was leaving. Then JT intervened.

Victim joins in argument

An argument began and another teen, called RC in the complaint, joined in. Binford said the teens thought he was brandishing his gun during the argument. Binford said he was trying to find his bus pass.

JT is alleged to have told RC to call someone to “bring all the sticks.” Binford assumed that meant bring weapons. Binford walked to his bus, but RC blocked his way so Binford shoved him. JT and RC then knocked Binford to the ground.

After a fight, Binford brandished his gun and fired once, striking JT in the head. Neither JT nor RC had weapons, according to the complaint.

Binford said he did not know that he had shot JT until he looked around a parked vehicle. He then fled, taking a bus downtown and calling a family member.

Ramsey County Sheriff’s deputies later arrested Binford at his East Side home and confiscated his Taurus 9 mm handgun.

— Jane McClure


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