Prior Lake family charged in Burnsville teen's killing

Three members of a Prior Lake family are charged in the Feb. 28 killing of a Burnsville teenager during a drug deal outside the Target store in Savage.

Samuel A. Keezer, 16, was shot once in the head and died at Hennepin County Medical Center.

The alleged killer, 44-year-old Taran Cortez Miller, admitted to firing the shot, according to a Scott County criminal complaint. He said he thought Keezer — who had gotten into Miller’s vehicle and was keeping the door ajar as he handled the marijuana he had arranged to buy — was going to bolt without paying.

Taran Miller is charged with two counts of second-degree murder, one with intent and one without intent while committing a felony. His 16-year-old son, Braylen Justice Miller, who accompanied his father to the drug deal, is charged with two counts of aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

TanyaMarie Esthell Miller, 43, the wife and mother, is charged with one count of aiding an offender to avoid arrest and one count of aiding an offender as an accomplice after the fact.

Keezer, the son of Jody and Doug Keezer of Burnsville, attended District 191’s alternative high school for a time after attending Burnsville High School until October 2018, according to the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage district. He also attended Metcalf Middle and William Byrne Elementary schools.

Keezer had “a kind heart and a beautiful soul,” his family said in his obituary. “He had a smile and laugh that could light up a room. He was loved deeply and was the most amazing son his parents could have asked for.”

Savage police were called to the west parking lot of Target, 14333 Highway 13, at around 7:30 p.m. Feb. 28. Keezer lay bleeding but conscious. The autopsy revealed a bullet entered his skull above the right ear and exited above the left eyebrow, the complaint said.

Investigating officers learned from his Feb. 28 Snapchat communications that Keezer planned to meet Braylen Miller at Target to buy marijuana.

Braylen, arrested near his home after the shooting, told police he uses Snapchat to connect with marijuana buyers, according to the complaint. He said he and his father went together to St. Paul to buy the marijuana to sell to Keezer.

He said his father told him to go into their house and get his .380 handgun before they went to Target, the last of the places where Keezer suggested they meet, the complaint said.

Keezer arrived in a vehicle with three or four companions, according to the complaint. One of them, a juvenile male, told police their plan was to meet up with Braylen “and then take his marijuana,” the complaint said.

The driver of Keezer’s vehicle drove to a nearby parking lot during the meeting with the Millers. Keezer was “supposed to get the marijuana and then run away” to the waiting vehicle, the complaint said.

When Keezer didn’t return, the companion told police, he ran back to the Target lot and saw Keezer bleeding on the ground. He ran back to vehicle, which then drove away.

Taran Miller told police he’d done other drug deals with Keezer and got into the rear passenger seat because he didn’t want Keezer behind him, the complaint said. He took the safety off his handgun.

The Millers repeatedly told Keezer to close the front passenger door while he smelled and handled the marijuana, the complaint said.

Taran Miller told police he shot Keezer in the head, and once he fell out of the open car door, Miller returned to the passenger seat and told his son to drive away.

Taran Miller called his wife and told her about the shooting. He said he got rid of the bullet casing left in the vehicle.

He told police he and his wife then drove to his sister-in-law’s home in Mankato and gave her the gun, which she placed in a lockbox. Executing a search warrant, officers found the box and the gun, the complaint said.

The Millers also hid their vehicle in a neighbor’s garage “to avoid detection,” the complaint said.

‘Friend to everyone’

Keezer was “independent, confident, funny, and fearless,” the obituary said. “He loved listening to music, gaming, playing basketball, scary movies, YouTube, clothes, shoes, and his dog, Fred.

“He liked zip lining, amusement parks, vacationing with friends and family, and traveling to warm places. Sam was a friend to everyone and touched the lives of so many.”

He was preceded in death by his grandfather, Clarence Bjorkstrand; aunt, Denyse Keezer; and uncle, Wayne Keezer.

He is survived by his parents; grandparents, Bonnie Bjorkstrand and Derald and Sandra Keezer; aunts and uncles, Darryl (Jodi Bunting), Ira, Robyn and Danielle Keezer, and Wayne Westrud, Cindy (Mike) McHugh and Tammy (Kurt) Mencel; girlfriend, Shaznay; and other friends and family.

The funeral service was March 10 at White Funeral Home, Burnsville. Visitation was March 9. Interment will be private.

Load comments