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Man arrested for brandishing gun in downtown Brainerd parking lot

The Brainerd Police Department responded to Shep's at 11:57 p.m. Monday, May 23, for a report of an intoxicated male brandishing a firearm.

John Sperrazza jail mugshot
Contributed / Crow Wing County Jail
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BRAINERD — A 41-year-old man faces three felony charges after he allegedly pointed a handgun at two people Monday night outside a downtown Brainerd bar.

The suspect, John Salvatore Sperrazza, was charged Wednesday, May 25, with serious felony second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon, felony second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon and felony threats of violence with reckless disregard.

The Brainerd Police Department responded to Shep's On 6th at 11:57 p.m. Monday, May 23, for a report of an intoxicated male brandishing a firearm. Officers arrived and located a man, identified as Sperrazza, standing between two vehicles, holding a handgun in his right hand pointed towards the ground. Officers told him to drop the gun and he complied.

According to the criminal complaint filed against Sperrazza, the Brainerd Police Department spoke with four witnesses who provided consistent accounts of events leading up to Sperrazza’s arrest.

The witnesses were at the bar when Sperrazza struck up a conversation with them and asked to join them in playing shuffleboard. Ultimately the group of friends decided to go to another downtown Brainerd bar, Se'z Bar, for karaoke. Sperrazza also went to SE’z Bar.

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During the evening, Sperrazza asked a female in the group if she was into cocaine and she told him she was not. While the parties were at SE'z, Sperrazza went into the bathroom numerous times, the charging document states.

After some time, Sperrazza began to get verbally abusive and started using derogatory terms with the woman. After using the bathroom one last time, Sperrazza left the bar.

The woman told police she was nervous to walk out to her car, which was parked in the parking lot behind Shep's, because she “got a bad feeling about Sperrazza and did not feel comfortable around him.”

After waiting about 10 minutes she left with a friend to go to their vehicles. As she was attempting to leave, she saw Sperrazza in the parking lot yelling something to her. She rolled down her window and told Sperrazza to go home. He continued to yell at her and she got out of her vehicle and again told Sperrazza to go home.

Sperrazza then pulled out a handgun and the woman told police she heard him slide the action on the handgun, the complaint stated. Sperrazza pointed the gun at her and the witness said she jumped into her vehicle and drove to SE’z to meet with the rest of her friends.

One friend pursued Sperrazza while another called 911. Sperrazza was trying to get into his truck when the friend told Sperrazza that it was not OK to pull a gun on a woman and that police were on the way.

Sperrazza then pointed the gun at the friend and threatened to shoot, the complaint stated.

A review of video from nearby surveillance cameras appears to corroborate the reports of the witnesses, the charges stated.

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Brainerd Deputy Police Chief John Davis said Sperrazza has a license for a concealed weapon.

In March, Essentia Health announced Sperrazza would join the company as their new senior vice president of operations for the Brainerd Lakes region. On Wednesday, Essentia Health security said Sperrazza’s ID card was no longer active.

Sperrazza has a degree in nuclear medicine technology from the State University of New York and a Master of Business Administration from Medaille College, also in New York. He spent the last 15 years in various health care senior leadership roles, including the chief operating officer of two hospitals in New York. Sperrazza previously served as the senior vice president of operations for Essentia’s West Market, representing areas in North Dakota and western Minnesota. In 2020, The Buffalo News reported Sperrazza was out as president of Buffalo’s Sisters of Charity Hospital three months after taking the job. A spokesperson for the New York hospital said the leave was unanticipated and was personal in nature.

Sperrazza is currently in Crow Wing County Jail. His next court appearance has not been scheduled.

Davis said the investigation is ongoing and if anyone witnessed the events outside Shep’s Monday night, to call the Brainerd Police Department at 218-829-2805 and ask to speak to an investigator.

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