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Two charged in central Minnesota bar attack

Steve "Beaver" Hlinsky of Forada, Minn., shown celebrating a double-eagle on the golf course, was attacked at a bar and later died. (Submitted photo)

ALEXANDRIA, Minn. -- Manslaughter charges have been filed against two men in connection with the May 5 assault of Steven “Beaver” Hlinsky of Forada, the Douglas County Attorney’s Office announced Friday, May 18.

Troy Nathan Traut, 33, of Alexandria, and Jacob Elmo Larson, 33, of Kensington, are in custody, and each have been charged with one count of first-degree manslaughter and two counts of fifth-degree assault in connection with the death of Hlinsky, the news release said.

They are expected to appear in court Monday morning for bail hearings.

Hlinsky, a Forada farmer and firefighter, was found on the sidewalk outside the Muddy Boot Bar and Grill in Forada in the early-morning hours of May 5, bleeding from the nose and ear. “Douglas County Hospital medical staff indicated that Hlinsky was bleeding in and around his brain, had a fractured eye socket, a torn retina, and possible internal injuries,” the criminal complaint states.

Hlinsky was airlifted to St. Cloud Hospital with life-threatening injuries. He was released May 11, but two days later, at his son’s residence in Forada, he was found to be unresponsive and not breathing, and was pronounced dead at the scene.

The criminal complaint states that medical personnel and the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Hlinsky agree that his death was caused by the consequences of traumatic brain injuries inflicted by blunt force head trauma.

Surveillance video depicts the following, according to the complaint:

Traut, Larson and two other men were sitting together at a table upon arriving at the Muddy Boot. Several times, Traut appears to approach Hlinsky in an “aggressive or agitated” manner. The video shows Traut grabbing a beer bottle in front of Hlinsky and throwing it against the wall, as well as flipping a cup in front of Hlinsky. During both situations, the complaint states Hlinsky “remains calm, stays seated and does not react.”

Larson is shown walking over to where Hlinsky is seated and lighting what appears to be a marijuana pipe, then blowing the smoke toward Hlinsky. Hlinsky appears to direct Larson to the door, stopping to talk to the bartender, then continuing to the door with Larson. According to the complaint, Hlinsky does not appear to be planning to exit the bar, but Traut grabs him by the arm and pulls him outside. Larson is then seen putting Hlinsky in a headlock and assisting in pulling him outside.

There is no video evidence of how Hlinsky wound up on the ground. However, the complaint states there is video showing Larson walking to his vehicle with another man and leaving. Video also shows Traut walking partway to his truck, then running to it, getting in and quickly leaving the bar.

“Hlinsky was found seconds later, unconscious, and with massive trauma to his head and face. The medical examiner believes that Hlinsky’s death is the result of the trauma that he sustained during the early hours of May 5, 2018, outside of the Muddy Boot bar in Forada,” the criminal complaint states.

Law enforcement officials conducted interviews with the two men who were charged, two others who were shown at the table with them and a bartender.

On May 5, Traut said that he had engaged in a verbal argument with Hlinsky before going outside to smoke a cigarette, the complaint states. Upon returning to the bar, he said he encountered Larson and Hlinsky fighting as they came out the main door, and that they then ran into him and he does not know what happened.

During a second interview on May 9, Traut said he saw Larson and Hlinsky with their hands on one another but not engaged in a physical altercation. He stated they all tripped and fell and he saw Hlinsky on the ground with blood on his nose, but he did not see anyone assaulting Hlinsky and denied assaulting him.

Larson was initially interviewed May 5, according to the complaint. He told law enforcement he was “burning one” in the bar and someone walked him out the door. He says upon being escorted out of the bar, he was shoved in the back and ended up 10 feet into the street. Larson says that is when he saw Hlinsky lying on the ground.

Larson says he asked Hlinsky if he was OK and got no response. He states he and another man then left the area in Larson’s vehicle because he was worried about getting in trouble for smoking marijuana. He says he does not recall putting his arm around Hlinsky’s neck or putting him in a headlock as video evidence suggests.

The complaint states that when Hlinsky was escorting Larson to the door, the bartender witnessed Traut’s arm grab Hlinsky. The bartender went outside immediately and found Hlinsky lying on the sidewalk with blood on his face.

The case remains under investigation.

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