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Man fatally stabbed in face at mental health group home in West St. Paul

John C. Adams II (Courtesy of Dakota County Sheriff’s Office)1 / 3
West St. Paul police move about the property at 1546 Christensen Ave. in West St. Paul, where a man was fatally stabbed early Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. Scott Takushi / St. Paul Pioneer Press2 / 3
West St. Paul police move about the property at 1546 Christensen Ave. in West St. Paul, where a man was fatally stabbed early Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. A BCA mobile crime lab was parked in front of the house. Scott Takushi / St. Paul Pioneer Press3 / 3

WEST ST. PAUL — A resident of a state-run mental health group home in West St. Paul was fatally stabbed Monday, Feb. 17, by another resident — a 38-year-old man who was arrested at the scene, police said.

John C. Adams II was booked into Dakota County jail on suspicion of second-degree murder. Formal charges against him are expected this week, West St. Paul Police Chief Brian Sturgeon said.

The victim’s identity will be released later by the Hennepin County medical examiner’s office, Sturgeon said.

Just before 4 a.m., officers responded to a call of a disturbance at 1546 Christensen Ave. and found a man with stab wounds. According to police radio dispatch, the victim was stabbed in the face.

“Please speed up medics … we have one male with multiple lacerations to the face,” an officer said. “He is breathing, but unconscious.”

Medics gave CPR to the man, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

A third resident and a staff member were also in the home at the time of the stabbing, Department of Human Services, spokesman Christopher Sprung said.

The safety of residents and staff in a DHS-operated facility is “our top priority,” Commissioner Jodi Harpstead said in statement. “That is why this incident is both rare and tragic for everyone involved. Our hearts go out first to the victim and his family and friends who will be mourning his loss.”

Sturgeon said it is too early to release a possible motive or what transpired prior to the stabbing.

In search of a motive

On Monday afternoon, crime scene tape stretched across a wide area in front of the house, which is west of U.S. 52 and in between Thompson and Wentworth avenues. The man’s body was taken from the house shortly before noon.

Police investigators were processing the scene with assistance from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension into the afternoon. At one point, investigators took photographs of an area behind a taped-off Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses building across the street.

Residents in the neighborhood said they have not seen or heard any trouble at the home in the past. Two neighbors said they were unaware it was a group home.

Who lives there

Sprung said the group home provides a supervised and supported living environment for people who have been provisionally discharged from a DHS-inpatient mental health facility and are allowed to live and work in the community.

The group home also accepts patients who have been provisionally discharged from the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter, Sprung said.

In early 2018, the state investigated a claim by a resident of the West St. Paul group home who recently had been discharged from the Security Hospital and alleged that another group home resident waved around a 10-inch knife in a threatening manner. Investigators found the allegation to be false.

Harpstead said DHS is assisting police in their ongoing investigation and have begun its own internal review of this “heartbreaking attack.”

“This is traumatic for the other resident of the home and our staff members, so we are also making sure that they get the care that they need,” she said. “Under data privacy laws, we cannot provide any further information about our clients or staff.”

According to state jail records, Adams was convicted of third-degree assault in Hennepin County in May 2001. His sentence included being under supervision of the Security Hospital for three years.

‘Not a problem group home’

Sturgeon said he had yet to look into whether there have been prior calls of service at the group home, but added it is not a residence “on our regular radar. It’s not a problem group home, so to speak.”

Last year, West St. Paul and South St. Paul police began collaborating with Dakota County Social Services through a pilot program meant to bring a more coordinated response to mental health calls and take a more proactive approach to people dealing with the illness.

The program includes police officers working as liaisons with a county mental health coordinator who is embedded within the police departments. The coordinator follows up on crisis calls with the officers; reviews calls for service to try to determine if there is a mental health component; and works to connect people with mental health resources with the hope of ultimately cutting down on the need for officers to be called for crisis situations.

The program was jump-started after a man with a history of mental health issues fired a shotgun at four South St. Paul police officers, striking two of them outside his group home in July 2018.

In January, the group home resident, 34-year-old Dustin Allen Bilderback, was sentenced to 20 years in custody.

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