A 51-year-old Maplewood man was blinded in one eye early New Year’s Day in what witnesses said was an unprovoked attack by a fellow patron at a St. Paul bar.

Kinseth C. Sorlien, 33, was charged Thursday in Ramsey County District Court with first-degree assault in the attack. Sorlien allegedly attacked Kent Gunter at 1:24 a.m. Wednesday at Governors Fine Food and Drink on Arcade Street.

“I’m in a lot of pain,” said Gunter, who on Wednesday had surgery on his left eye at Regions Hospital in St. Paul. He was discharged Thursday and said doctors are unsure whether he’ll regain vision in the eye.

According to the complaint: Gunter and witnesses told police that Sorlien was drunk and yelled at his mother to leave the bar. Sorlien’s mother walked up to Gunter, hugged him and wished him a happy new year.

“I thought he was coming for his mom, but he came for me,” Gunter said. “It’s just a shame that this had to happen.”

Sorlien allegedly walked by Gunter and slapped him in the head. Sorlien left the bar but returned later. Gunter said he told Sorlien the slap was not necessary. Sorlien then jabbed him in the left eye with his index and middle fingers, according to the charges. Sorlien was at the bar with his girlfriend and mother.

“[The victim] told Sorlien to relax because it was New Year’s Eve,” the criminal complaint said. “Sorlien struck [the victim] in the eye with two extended fingers and left the bar.”

A witness told police that Gunter didn’t threaten Sorlien, who allegedly grabbed his mother by the throat and pushed her out of the bar after he attacked Gunter. Gunter told police that he had never spoken to Sorlien before that night.

“[The victim’s] left eye was glazed over and tissue was leaking from the socket,” the complaint said.

Sorlien fled but was arrested. He told police that he grabbed Gunter’s head, that Gunter “just didn’t seem normal,” and that he “accidentally poked him,” the charges said.

Sorlien told police that he has some martial arts training, but “nothing drastic.” His criminal record includes convictions for traffic violations and criminal damage to property.

Gunter is worried the loss of vision will affect his work, which involves siding on homes, and his ability to ride motorcycles. Gunter regularly participates in charity rides.

“I want [Sorlien] to understand that this was unnecessary,” Gunter said. “It’s just not right.”

Gunter’s girlfriend, Michelle Vignalo, was at the bar and said his eye was partly hanging out of its socket after the attack.

“Everybody was in shock,” she said. “They couldn’t believe what happened.”


Twitter: @ChaoStrib