A drug sale led to the killing of a Burnsville teen in Savage last week, police said Thursday.
Taran Cortez Miller, 44, of Sue Ann Lane in Prior Lake was charged on Thursday with two counts of second-degree murder — one count with intent and one count without intent while committing a felony — in Scott County District Court following the shooting death of Samuel A. Keezer, 16.
His 16-year-old son, Braylen Justice Miller, was charged with two counts of aiding and abetting second-degree murder. His wife, TanyaMarie Esthell Miller, 43, was charged with two counts of aiding an offender; one count relates to being an accomplice after the fact, the other to harboring an offender.
Keezer died from a gunshot wound to the head after being shot in the Target parking lot in Savage around 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 28.
The father and son met Keezer to sell him marijuana, according to the charging documents. The father told investigators he shot the victim in the head inside their vehicle when he thought Keezer “was going to take the marijuana and run out of the car without paying."
Police said Keezer arrived at Target in a vehicle with three or four other occupants. A witness in the vehicle with Keezer that night told officers Keezer planned to meet the juvenile suspect and run off with the marijuana.
The witness said Keezer got into the juvenile suspect’s vehicle in the Target parking lot, and the witness’s vehicle drove to a nearby parking lot to wait.
After Keezer didn't return, the witness found him lying on the ground and bleeding, then fled.
Investigators said surveillance video showed Keezer falling out or being pushed out of a vehicle that was then driven away.
Officers were called to Target around 7:30 p.m. that evening. Multiple witnesses reported hearing what sounded like a firecracker before seeing the victim on the ground, Savage Police Chief Rodney Suerer said later.
Officers found the male bleeding heavily with critical head injuries. Keezer was able to say his name and that his head hurt before he began vomiting. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center, where he was placed on life support and later died.
A Burnsville-Eagan-Savage District spokesperson said Keezer attended Burnsville High School and Burnsville Alternative High School but wasn't enrolled in the district at the time of his death.
On Monday evening, Keezer's family and friends gathered in the Target parking lot for a vigil. "We love Sam" and "Sam's World" were among the messages left a memorial made of flowers, candles and notes.
Family members declined to share further details, citing the ongoing criminal investigation.
An obituary described the teen as "independent, confident, funny, and fearless" and "the most amazing son his parents could have asked for."
"Sam was taken too soon but will live on through all that knew and loved him," the obituary reads. "He is in our hearts and will never be forgotten."
Police connected the suspect vehicle to Braylen Miller. They were waiting to execute a search of the family home and garages when they spotted Braylen Miller running near his house, where they arrested him.
The teen told police he went to St. Paul with his father to buy the marijuana to sell to Keezer.
Keezer initially didn’t show up to their first meeting place, the juvenile said, and suggested Target. The son said his father told him to go inside the house and get a gun.
When Keezer got into the front passenger seat of their vehicle at Target, he kept the door ajar while handling the marijuana. Braylen Miller stated his dad shot Keezer in the head, then pushed him out of the vehicle, police said.
Taran Miller then told his son to drive away and called his wife, Tanya Marie Miller, to tell her what happened.
When they got back home, Tanya Miller went to the neighbor’s house to get her garage key, then the family hid the vehicle in the garage. The juvenile said his mom talked to his sister about taking the firearm.
In a statement to investigators, Taran Miller’s story matched his son’s.
He said he disposed of the bullet casing left in his vehicle and gave the firearm to his sister-in-law at her home in Mankato. His wife drove him.
Officers recovered the murder weapon in a black lock box in the Mankato home.
In a statement to officers, Tanya Miller said she knew her husband sold drugs with their son and that her husband had a gun.
Law enforcement took Taran Miller into custody during a traffic stop shortly before 3 p.m. Tuesday at 160th Street and Sue Ann Lane, according the arrest data.