McGruder found guilty on all counts in shooting death of TyEsha Gills

Published 4:35 pm Wednesday, February 21, 2024

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Me’Darian Ledale McGruder, the man accused of the shooting death of 20-year-old TyEsha Gills in 2021, has been found guilty on all counts he was facing.

The decision, handed down Wednesday afternoon by Judge Jeffrey Kritzer, convicts McGruder of two counts of second degree murder, violent felon in possession of a firearm, second degree manslaughter and domestic assault.

The decision comes a week after McGruder’s nearly two-week trial was wrapped up on Wednesday, Feb. 14. According to records from the trial, the convictions come largely on the back of testimony provided by Kiara Gills, TyEsha’s cousin who witnessed the events on July 31, 2021.

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Testimony was also given by Dr. Reade Quinton, the medical examiner who conducted the autopsy of TyEsha, who was able to show that the cause of death came from a shot at close range that caused damage to the organs as the bullet passed through TyEsha’s body.

Quinton testified that the bullet entered her upper chest near the base of her neck where it continued through her body in a straight line.

TyEsha was pronounced dead a little before 3 a.m. on July 31 at Mayo Clinic Health Systems-Austin.

According to testimony given by Kiara, the night started at the home where McGruder was living in Austin, and included TyEsha, Kiara, McGruder and Ryan Collins, who Kiara described as being good friends with McGruder.

However, the group then left and went to the home shared by TyEsha and Kiara in the 100 block of 10th Street of Austin a little after midnight.

McGruder had both a 9mm Glock with an extended magazine, as well as a stun gun in his possession, and that at one point McGruder began “playing” with the stun gun and trying to shock both women with it. 

Up until this point in the evening both Kiara and McGruder’s accounts seemed to align, but strayed in different directions soon after with Kiara testifying that TyEsha had taken control of the stun gun at one point and was making it go off, which when triggered made a firecracker sound..

Kiara further testified that McGruder told TyEsha, “If you tase me, I’m going to pop you.” This was followed by McGruder taking the weapon out of his waistband,  chambering a shell and holding it at his side.

Kiara decided to leave the room at that point and began walking to her bedroom when she said she heard another zap of the stun gun, followed by a gunshot. 

Holding her chest and sitting on a couch at the residence, TyEsha was heard to say, “I can’t believe you just shot me.” after which McGruder fled the house.

Kiara initially didn’t give Austin Police officers information on the case, but later revealed what she witnessed. When asked why she withheld information, Kiara said that in part, she became frightened when Collins returned to the home after leaving prior to the shooting earlier in the event, testifying she was terrified.

“Because I – I thought he was coming to like, you know, finish the job,” Kiara said on direct examination.

McGruder, however, claimed that both Kiara and TyEsha threatened him with BB guns and told him to drop the stun gun, followed by shooting him several times with BBs. 

He also claimed that he saw TyEsha at one point, “start popping rounds out of the gun.” After which he took the gun from TyEsha, who then threatened him with the stun gun and repeatedly lunged at him with it.

After about three or four times, McGruder said that TyEsha, with Kiara still watching, lunged at him again with the stun gun, and as he jumped back the gun discharged. McGruder then claimed he thought the shot went into the ceiling.

However, much of McGruder’s account of the shooting was disputed, including testimony that Kiara seemed to suggest she would cover for McGruder.

In his decision, Kritizer showed that there was little credibility to McGruder’s account in several areas including that the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension found nothing at the scene to suggest that BB guns were involved and that there had been no unspent shells discovered on the living room floor from TyEsha’s supposed ejection of shells from McGruder’s gun. 

Shells were found in TyEsha’s bedroom dresser drawer, but the ruling expressed that it was highly unlikely they were the same shells McGruder claimed were ejected because there wasn’t enough time to put them there.

Kritzer also pointed out that McGruder’s actions involving the shooting did not reflect an accidental shooting as McGruder claimed, including taking any other measures to ensure the gun was safely stored or where his finger was when handling the gun.

“Mr. McGruder says he ‘gripped’ the gun by the handle,’ and he ‘wasn’t really paying attention where my fingers was at because I wasn’t trying to shoot no gun,’” Kritzer wrote, adding later, “… it makes no sense that Mr. McGruder would have paid no attention to whether his finger was on the trigger during the time when he says he was afraid that he would accidentally shoot TyEsha Gills.”

Kritzer also took exception to McGruder’s assertion that Kiara might cover for him, noting that at best, Kiara and McGruder were “okay” with each other as opposed to the close relationship she had with TyEsha.

“It is clear that they were close friends in addition to the family bond,” Kritzer wrote, while also noting the distraught way Kiara called 911 requesting help for Kiara.

While McGruder claimed to have accidentally shot TyEsha, Kritzer establishes when referring to one of the second degree murder counts that the evidence throughout the case, including Kiara’s testimony, and the expert testimony provided by Quinton, reflected that McGruder intended to both shoot and kill TyEsha.

“Based the foregoing findings and analysis, the Court finds beyond a reasonable doubt that on July 31, 2021, in Mower County, Minnesota, the defendant, Me’Darian McGruder, acted with intent to kill TyEsha Gills when he intentionally shot a 9mm bullet through the length of her torso from a distance of two feet or less away,” Kritzer wrote.

According to court documents, McGruder is to be held without bail until sentencing, scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on April 25.