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St. Paul man enters guilty plea for illegal possession of weapon

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A St. Paul man accused of shooting two men Aug. 30 in the Cass Lake town homes parking lot pleaded guilty Jan. 26 to being a felon convicted of a violent crime within the last 10 years who illegally possessed a pistol or assault weapon.

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Clarence James Dickens, 50, entered his plea before Judge John P. Smith in Cass County District Court and is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 23.

Dickens also was charged with first- and second-degree assault and has pleaded innocent to those counts.

The criminal complaint filed against Dickens states he has multiple prior convictions for crimes of violence. As a convicted felon, he is ineligible to possess a firearm.

According to the complaint, Dickens was one of four people who arrived in a vehicle at the town homes at about 3 a.m. to visit a relative. An altercation then ensued between the occupants of the vehicle and a group of individuals who were present in the parking lot.

Michael Jones, 25, of Cass Lake, and Thomas Jones, 26, of Rosemount, Minn., sustained gunshot wounds, according to Cass County Sheriff's Office.

The victims, who are brothers, told officers they were walking past the area and not involved in the altercation.

The complaint states Michael Jones was treated for gunshot wounds to his hand and leg at Cass Lake Public Health Services Hospital. Thomas Jones was airlifted to a Duluth, Minn., hospital for treatment of a gunshot wound to his groin area.

The suspect vehicle reportedly headed south from Cass Lake following the incident.

Officers located the vehicle reportedly involved in the shooting at Pine River and pursued the vehicle on state Highway 371 to the city of Pequot Lakes, where the vehicle was stopped. Dickens was one of four occupants in the vehicle who were detained and taken to Cass County Detention Center.

Dickens and a woman had reportedly exited the vehicle in Cass Lake to smoke and so Dickens could check to see if the relative was home. They told officers a number of young males were at the other end of the parking lot.

The complaint indicates the woman told officers one of the young males ran toward them and confronted Dickens. She said Dickens said he did not want any trouble, but a number of young males joined in the altercation.

The male who initially confronted them then punched Dickens in the side of the head. She said Dickens fell to the ground and appeared to be bleeding from his ear, according to the complaint.

Dickens told the woman to get in the vehicle and that they were leaving.

She said she heard multiple gunshots. Dickens hopped into the vehicle as they were leaving. She said he had a 9 mm handgun in his hand.

At some point between Cass Lake and Walker after those in the fleeing vehicle saw multiple squad cars heading north, Dickens reportedly placed the handgun in a ditch by a road sign along the highway. Officers later recovered a 9 mm handgun from that ditch.

Dickens told officers two young males approached him, argued with him, and then one punched him in the ear. He said the other young males hit him all over his body. He said he did not shoot anyone or possess a firearm, but had heard gunshots while standing in the parking lot.

He provided law enforcement officers with a drawing of the town homes' parking lot and indicated where he was standing. The complaint states officers found spent shell casings of a 9 mm handgun within feet of where Dickens indicated on his drawing that he had been standing.

Michael Jones told officers he and his brother had been walking in the area and observed the altercation, but decided to walk away. At that point, he said he heard gunshots and felt pain in his calf and hand, but did not realize until later that his brother also had been shot.

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