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Remembering a slain Minnesota youth hockey coach, father

A suspect has been charged after Roseville Area youth hockey coach Michael Brasel was shot and killed outside his home in an attempt to thwart a car theft.

Brasel copy.jpg
Michael Brasel, 44, was fatally shot in St. Paul on May 6, 2023.

ST. PAUL — Hundreds of people gathered at Langford Park in St. Anthony Park on Friday, May 12 for a candlelight vigil to honor a youth hockey coach, father and husband who was fatally shot outside his home May 6 while interrupting a car theft.

Michael Brasel, who grew up in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood before making it his home as an adult, worked as a residential carpenter and also coached for Roseville Area Youth Hockey. His family includes wife, Hilary, and two sons — one in fifth grade and one in the eighth grade.

Hilary Brasel responded on Facebook to a memorial post from the hockey association.

“Michael loved, Loved, LOVED coaching hockey,” she wrote. “He loved the bond that hockey families make over the 6-8 months of the year you play together here in Minnesota. He loved the time he spent with the kids making sure they all had their skates tied, their helmets were secured, and they knew that their individual efforts were what would make the team successful. His teams never left a locker room after a game with a goal to work on, or a moment of growth acknowledged.”

At the vigil, Hilary Brasel wore a necklace made from a red hockey lace that held her husband’s wedding ring. She said Michael liked to stand out and chose to wear red hockey laces versus the traditional white.


“We are so grateful for the outpouring of support and love from friends, family, neighbors and the community at large," she said.

She added of her fun-loving late husband: “Michael’s pissed he’s missing the party.”

He loved the bond that hockey families make over the 6-8 months of the year you play together here in Minnesota.
Hilary Brasel

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter said last week that he learned how few degrees of separation he had from Michael.

“How do we create a community where we never have to have a candlelight vigil again?” Carter asked.

Christopher Brasel, Michael’s brother, said on that point: “It’s time to be proactive against gun violence.”

The otherwise somber crowd erupted with applause in response.

A fundraising site for the family had raised more than $233,000 as of Tuesday morning.

Brasel gathering copy.jpg
Hundreds of people gathered at Langford Park in St. Anthony Park on May 12, 2023 for a candlelight vigil to honor Michael Brasel, who was tragically shot outside his home while interrupting a car theft.
Maraya King / Pioneer Press


A great coach

Gretchen Hopeman, the president of the Roseville Area Youth Hockey Association, remembers Michael Brasel telling her not to call and ask him to coach again for for the upcoming season.

But every year Hopeman would call. And every year Brasel would say yes.

Friends with the Brasel family for about 10 years, Hopeman recalled Michael Brasel’s apprehension about coaching in the Roseville association his first year.

“Nobody knows me,” he told Hopeman.

“Well they’re going to love you, just like I do,” Hopeman told him.

“So he agreed to take it and he made a huge impact on our association,” she said. “There’s really not a kid that’s not untouched by him in our association.”

Since Brasel’s death, Hopeman has filed through the annual parent reviews that Brasel received over the years.

“There was not one bad review because I knew every time he took one of the teams, they were going to have one of the most amazing experiences because of him,” Hopeman said, choking back emotion. “He went as far as making passboards for one team one year, and he’s a general contractor by trade. He painted them and put on his team’s slogan, which is ‘Raiders never quit,’ so there’s not many coaches who would go the lengths he would go.”


There’s really not a kid that’s not untouched by him in our association.
Gretchen Hopeman

Brasel, who also coached Hopeman’s son, said a local company is working to provide funding for the Brasel children, Oliver and Miles, to pay for their hockey seasons.

Plans to remember Brasel also include the association holding a celebration of life later this summer, helmet stickers for the players and making sure every player in the Roseville association receives red skate laces.

“The hockey community is incredible,” Hopeman said. “It’s just a reminder that this is more than a sport, this is family and I think what I’m overwhelmed by is that it's not just our organization that has stepped up, but it’s the meal train, the giving.. “

Hopeman said various organizations that have dealt with losses such as the Roseville association have reached out to guide them through this process.

“That was so helpful and invaluable, so what I’ve found is that we all may wear different jerseys and we wear different colors, but in the end, we’re a family,” she said. “Hockey is a family in Minnesota and I could not be more proud to be a part of it.”

The shooting

One of Michael Brasel’s sons was in his family’s St. Paul home when he heard his father yell outside, “What are you doing?”

The sound of gunshots followed, according to murder charges filed Friday against a 17-year-old boy.


Hilary Brasel, who said the 44-year-old confronted someone trying to break into her car, rushed outside and found Michael Brasel shot in their front yard in the quiet St. Anthony Park neighborhood on the morning of May 6. She is a registered nurse and she gave him CPR.

Paramedics took Brasel to the hospital, where he died of multiple gunshot wounds.

St. Paul police announced last week that the department’s SWAT team carried out a search warrant about noon that day where the 17-year-old suspect lived in the 1600 block of East Reaney Avenue and arrested him . They got a break in the case from a car bumper that was left behind nearby and had a license plate on it.

The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office charged Kle Swee with two counts of aiding and abetting second-degree murder — one charge says it was carried out with intent, not premeditated, and the other says it was without intent while committing an aggravated robbery. He was charged in the past with robbery and burglary.

“This senseless act of gun violence tore apart a family as well as their community of neighbors and friends whose loss of a father, husband, friend, and coach will be felt for a lifetime,” Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said in a statement. “We are committed to addressing this youth’s actions with every appropriate measure available to us.”

Kle Swee is charged as a juvenile and the county attorney’s office filed a motion Friday to have him certified to stand trial as an adult. He remains in the Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center.

Kle Swee’s “criminal history is indicative of an individual who does not hesitate to invade the personal space of his victims,” Madelyn Adams, assistant Ramsey County attorney, said in court, pointing out they were there because “he shot a father in his own front yard.” She said Kle Swee had shown “escalating violent behavior” that culminated in Brasel’s death.

In 2021, Kle Swee entered a garage attached to an occupied dwelling to steal a car, and was charged with burglary, Adams said. That case was in Albert Lea, Minn.


Court records show that Kle Swee was charged last April, when he was 16, with first-degree aggravated robbery in a bathroom at Harding High School, on St. Paul’s East Side, where he was a student at the time. He pointed a weapon — an officer noted it appeared in a video to be a firearm or replica firearm — at a 15-year-old and demanded his cellphone, according to a charging document.

Another student picked up a BB magazine that he said had fallen out of the gun after an altercation between the suspect and the victim over the gun.

Kle Swee pleaded guilty in August, after which a judge continued the case for six months and put the teen on supervised probation. He was ordered to follow all recommendations and directives of probation and complete 100 hours of community service.

In January, a judge discharged Kle Swee from probation on the recommendation of Ramsey County Community Corrections, with a court order saying he had completed the requirements of the court and probation.

Rob Beer of The Rink Live and Maraya King of the St. Paul Pioneer Press contributed to this report.


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