No charges to be filed in death at Grandma’s

by Brian Close

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office announced Thursday it would not file charges against the suspect in the death of University student Nicholas Schultz, 22, who died 11 days after a punch caused him to fall down the stairs at Grandma’s Saloon and Deli on the West Bank.
The office was considering a charge of manslaughter, usually incurred when a fifth-degree assault results in death.
Hennepin County prosecuting attorney Kathryn Quaintance reviewed the homicide investigation, concluding in her report that prosecution would be difficult.
“I do not feel that we could prove beyond reasonable doubt, based on the evidence we have, that this suspect committed the crime of manslaughter,” the report states.
The suspect, a 26-year-old Minneapolis man, could not be reached for comment. The Minnesota Daily typically does not publish the names of suspects unless they are charged.
The report analyzed the confrontation that occurred on Sep. 23, when a blow sent Schultz tumbling down a flight of stairs, where he fractured his skull on the ceramic floor.
After a friend of Schultz pushed the suspect and was “verbally aggressive,” Schultz was observed arguing with the suspect’s brother-in-law.
At this point, the suspect told investigators, he and his brother-in-law “felt threatened and were afraid of being jumped,” as they were facing Schultz and three or four friends.
When the suspect’s brother-in-law turned away to pick up his drink, both he and the suspect reportedly saw Schultz pull back his fist, as if to prepare to throw a punch.
“The suspect then punched the victim because he saw it as a way to get himself and (his brother-in-law) out of the bar without being jumped,” the report states.
After hearing of Schultz’s death, the suspect and his brother-in-law contacted private attorneys, who in turn contacted the county attorney’s office and Minneapolis homicide detectives.
The office evaluated the strength of the case as it would be presented to a jury. They concluded that the state would likely lose the case, as it would not be able to prove that the suspect acted unreasonably in defending his brother-in-law.
“The `defense of another’ defense is a lot like the `self-defense’ defense,” said Pat Diamond, deputy county attorney. “You’re allowed to use reasonable force in defense of another who is facing bodily harm.”
The report adds that the suspect was “highly remorseful” and that a jury would likely sympathize with him. In addition, the report states that Schultz’s prior arrests could weaken the state’s case.
Schultz has prior arrests in connection with a brawl at a fraternity party and for drunken driving. His blood alcohol content shortly after the incident was .11 percent, according to the report.
The office also considered the request of Schultz’s family, who asked that no charges be filed.
Diamond said, however, that since the office represents the state, it often files charges in spite of the requests of the victim or family members to ensure that crimes don’t go unpunished.
“We are not saying that (the suspect) acted reasonably or that we believe the self-defense claim,” he said. “We don’t pronounce people innocent, we pronounce them not chargeable, which means that we cannot prove it.”