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Charges: Woman fatally shot cousin, but witnesses say she was trying to protect her

The victim was in a physical altercation with a neighbor when she was shot. The neighbor was also hit in the arm.
nicole love smith mugshot

A woman accused of fatally shooting her cousin and another woman in St. Paul over the weekend has been charged.

Nicole Love Smith, 42, of St. Paul, was arrested Sunday and was charged Monday with second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree attempted murder in the death of 44-year-old LaWanda Wade, of St. Paul. A 43-year-old woman was also shot in the arm. 

According to the Ramsey County criminal complaint, officers responded to a "chaotic scene" at the parking lot of 76 Stevens St. W at about 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 10, where they found Smith trying to help her cousin, Wade, who was lying face down on the ground. 

Wade was taken to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead shortly thereafter. The Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office says the gunshot entered her back and went through her left lung and heart, causing her to bleed to death, court documents state.

Meanwhile, officers at the scene followed a trail of blood to a man and woman's apartment, where they found a woman "actively bleeding" from a gunshot wound. She was taken to the hospital and the couple was taken into custody, the complaint said. 

Smith told police that Wade had been arguing with the couple, who also live in the building, and at one point Wade threw a grill at them. The couple then allegedly hit Wade several times with baseball bats.

Wade was reportedly arguing with the couple because Wade had been hitting on the man, who is the boyfriend of the woman who was shot in the arm.

This woman told police she had been jumped by Wade and "several other women" outside, and so she went to get a bat and began to fight with Wade. At one point, Wade got on top of her and she heard a gunshot but didn't see who fired. 

Officers recovered one 9mm casing in the parking lot near a vehicle that is registered to Smith's sister. Witnesses said they saw two women, including one who matched the description of the shooter, in that vehicle with Wade prior to the fighting and shooting. 

Smith was taken into custody after police determined she matched the description of the shooter provided by the 911 caller, who said the shooter "accidentally shot her friend." 

Smith denied shooting anyone, the complaint said. But police did overhear her on the phone saying she was willing to protect herself, she's tough and would carry a weapon if needed.

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Witnesses say she shot cousin accidentally

Witnesses, who gave varying accounts of how many gunshots they heard, said they thought Smith was trying to shoot the woman Wade was fighting with, but accidentally shot Wade, charges say. One man said based on how Smith was acting after the shooting he thought she was genuinely grieving. 

Wade's sister, Darnella Wade, told the Pioneer Press that she too believes Smith did not intend to shoot her cousin but was trying to protect her, noting LaWanda Wade had people over to her apartment prior to the shooting to grill up the meat from her freezer since it broke. 

Darnella Wade's son was critically wounded when he was shot in the head in St. Paul in 2016, inspiring her to start the nonprofit Black Truce Peace Organization. LaWanda Wade was a board member who helped behind the scenes, Darnella Wade told the paper.

LaWanda Wade's death was the 26th homicide of the year in St. Paul, police said.

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