A broken lawn mower and the offer of a hamburger escalated a dispute between northeast Minneapolis neighbors that ended when one was fatally shot in the chest, neighbors and authorities said Thursday.
Friends and relatives of Bruce Wayne Brown say that the dispute over the mower he had allegedly damaged after borrowing it from Edward Holzinger was the furthest thing from his mind as he fired up his backyard grill and began cooking hamburgers for family members visiting from out of town Tuesday night. But a short time later, Brown, 47, was dead.
Brown died on the sidewalk in front of Holzinger's house in their Sheridan neighborhood after Holzinger shot him twice in the chest about 8:30 p.m., police said. Holzinger, 61, apparently was angry that Brown had broken a lawn mower he had loaned him, they said.
Brown's niece tried to revive him before paramedics arrived, to no avail. He died at the scene.
Holzinger surrendered to police right there, reportedly telling one officer that Brown "deserved it" for calling him a pedophile, according to a criminal complaint filed Thursday in Hennepin County District Court. "I know I'm going to jail and I don't care," the complaint quoted him as saying at the time.
A Smith & Wesson 9mm handgun was found in Holzinger's house.
He was charged with second-degree murder and remains jailed in lieu of $1 million bail. His initial court appearance is set for Friday.
Neighbors said the bad blood between the two may have gone back even before the lawn mower dispute, to an incident in which Holzinger had reportedly made inappropriate comments about Brown's teenage stepdaughter. The lawn mower incident was only the latest squabble in what had become an increasingly contentious relationship, they said.
The night of the shooting, Brown had been grilling in his backyard for the family of his late cousin, relatives said. When he spotted Holzinger, he "sarcastically" offered to bring him a hamburger, the complaint read, to which his neighbor responded: "Come over and find out."
Over his family's protestations, Brown walked over to Holzinger's house, prosecutors said. Moments later, gunshots rang out.
A family in shock
Brown, a steelworker by trade, moved to the Twin Cities several years ago from the Dallas area.
Sometime later, he met his future wife, Hannah, relatives say, adopting her three young children — two boys and a girl — as his own, they said, sharing with them his love for fishing and hunting. He also had an older daughter from a previous relationship.
Patrick McDonnell said his cousin was "for all intents and purposes my second little brother."
"I want the people of Minnesota to know he was much more than just another homicide statistic," McDonnell, of Las Vegas, wrote in an e-mail Thursday. "He was also a brilliant guy who was so funny he could have been a professional comedian and was the best fisherman I've ever known."
Brown's slaying, the city's 20th of the year, left his family devastated, McDonnell's brother, Sean, said in an e-mail.
"He took the best care he could of his family, and he loved his daughter and stepchildren with all of his heart, and that is quite a bit, because his heart was as big as the place he called home for 90 percent of his life, Texas," Sean McDonnell said.
In a lengthy Facebook post, he recalled how Brown, whose childhood nickname of "Batman" had stuck, had passed along his love for the music of Black Sabbath, fishing and the Dallas Cowboys.
"It is truly like a tornado has ripped through my family," he said. "None of us will ever be the same, from his family, to his co-workers, to people he would meet every day."