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Complaint says Cottage Grove man put gun to bar patron's head

Prosecutors charged a Cottage Grove man with two felonies after he allegedly pulled a loaded handgun on a patron at a St. Paul Park bar late Sunday.

The Washington County Attorney's Office this week charged Eric W. Steil, 44, with second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon, terroristic threats and carrying a pistol in public without a permit. The permit violation is a gross misdemeanor.

The charges stem from claims that Steil, while heavily intoxicated, pulled a 9 mm handgun on another patron at the Vinny's on the River bar at Hidden Harbor Marina.

According to the criminal complaint:

Police were called to the bar for a reported assault involving a gun. An officer made contact with Steil outside the bar. He appeared intoxicated and told the officer that he did not have a permit to carry a pistol.

Inside the bar, police talked to a patron who said he saw Steil and another person involved in a verbal argument. The patron said he tried to be a "peace keeper" but as he intervened Steil pulled a gun and stuck it against the man's abdomen. When the man pushed the weapon away, he said Steil then brought the gun up against his head. The man told police he realized the gun was real at that point and he grabbed it away from Steil and placed it on the bar.

The alleged victim is not named in the complaint.

The complaint said a witness corroborated the alleged victim's story, noting that she heard him say: "Oh, my God, he pulled a gun."

The police report said officers recovered the gun and a pistol magazine with six rounds. The weapon was described as a silver Smith and Wesson 9 mm handgun.

The assault charge, the most serious of the three filed, carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison and a $14,000 fine.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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