Judge rules Oakdale shooting suspect incompetent to stand trial, again

Nhan Lap Tran

For the third time since March, Nhan Lap Tran, 34, of Oakdale has been declared mentally incompetent to stand trial on charges for shooting at cars and causing the death of 9-year-old Devin Joseph Aryal in February.

On Nov. 15, Washington County District Judge Gary Schurrer ruled Tran is not capable of being a defendant in a trial at this time. A psychologist’s report in March found Tran mentally incompetent, and prosecutors requested a second mental health evaluation. The second report, filed in May, came to the same conclusion about Tran’s mental state.

Tran was then transferred to the state mental hospital in St. Peter.

Tran is accused of randomly shooting at passing motorists Feb. 11 near the intersection of Seventh Street and Hadley Avenue in Oakdale. Police said multiple rounds were fired at four vehicles, including a minivan that Aryal was riding in with his mother.

Aryal, a fourth-grader at Oakdale Elementary School, was shot in the head and later died at Regions Hospital in St. Paul. His mother, Melissa Aryal, was shot in the arm but survived, and a 68-year-old woman was also shot and lost part of her finger as a result.

Bullets were fired at the drivers of two other vehicles, but they escaped injury. The shootings took place not far from the Oakdale Rainbow Foods.

Investigators went to the home where Tran was living with his parents on the 600 block of Guthrie Avenue and reported finding a note in his bedroom that said “Random Kill, Fake Plates.”

They also reported that the date “12/12/12,” (the end date of the Mayan calendar) was scrawled all over the walls of Tran’s bedroom.

According to the criminal complaint, Tran admitted to police that he shot at vehicles while they drove past his residence. He reportedly said he fired at them because cars had been following him around for a while and drivers had been “revving their engines” in front of his house and waking him up.

Tran was charged in February with one count of second-degree intentional murder, one count of second-degree felony murder during an assault, one count of first degree assault, and two counts of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon.

He could eventually be tried for the crimes, but that determination will have to wait until his mental state is reevaluated, said Washington County Attorney Pete Orput.

A subsequent review hearing has been set for May 29.

— Johanna Holub

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