A man was shot to death and another wounded by gunfire at a bar near downtown Winona, Minn., shortly after 1 a.m. Wednesday, and the suspected gunman was arrested a few hours later, authorities said.
The bloodshed at EB’s Corner Bar in the 700 block of W. 5th Street claimed the life of Robert C. Johnson, 53, better known as Bob Johnson, a member of the Winona-based bluegrass-folk band Beet Root Stew.
Johnson was shot in the chest, while 27-year-old Sean Patrick O’Brien, of Winona, was shot in the leg and survived, police said. Authorities have not said whether the victims were inside the bar or outside when they were shot, and they have yet to disclose a motive for the violence.
The Facebook page for Beet Root Stew posted a notice within hours of Johnson’s death that read: “Bobby was many things for us, a MUSE for sure: unsettling utterances from a divine origin. May you Rest in Peace Bobby.”
“He was a very talented musician and songwriter,” bandmate Wes McRaven said.
“There wasn’t a string instrument that he couldn’t play,” McRaven said, ticking off banjo, guitar, mandolin and fiddle, along with harmonica and piano as instruments Johnson had mastered. “He’ll definitely be missed in southeast Minnesota.”
McRaven said Johnson bounced for many years between Winona and working on an oil rig in Alaska. Even being in his 50s, “he was still doing that,” McRaven said. “He was getting ready to retire. He had about 30 years in.”
McRaven said he’s heard almost nothing about the circumstances leading up to Johnson’s death. He said that Johnson kept his Harley-Davidson stored behind the bar and that he would socialize at what McRaven affectionately call the “little local dive bar.”
Otherwise, Johnson spent a fair amount of his time in the Lower 48 grabbing gigs with Beet Root Stew in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Missouri.
Parker Forsell, director of the annual Mid West Music Fest in Winona in April, described Johnson as “a big supporter of the bluegrass music scene here” who could be found many times at Ed’s No Name Bar in town, a popular venue for live music.
“He was a sometimes rascal, especially when he was drinking,” Forsell said. “He was a great guy to talk to, a good soul.”
Soon after the shooting, officers interviewed witnesses and tracked the suspect through a vehicle that was parked near apartments near the 100 block of W. 3rd Street, police said.
As apartments were being evacuated, members of the Winona County Emergency Response Team made contact with the suspect and arrested him without incident shortly before 7 a.m. Police said he’s a 49-year-old Winona resident.
The man, yet to be charged, is jailed on suspicion of assault and second-degree murder during a drive-by shooting, suggesting that he fired the shots from a vehicle.