Ray Widstrand had stopped to help a girl knocked to the ground during a fight when he was attacked by a group of teens, a St. Paul man testified Wednesday.
Gerald Phillips, 19, said he was recording girl fights on Aug. 4 with his cellphone when he caught Widstrand, 27, walking into a group of teens.
Widstrand “was in the center of everything,” Phillips said. “Yeah, he was trying to help one of the girls up.”
Phillips testified in Ramsey County District Court in the trial of Issac O. Maiden, 19, who is charged with first-degree assault, first-degree aggravated robbery and two counts of a crime committed for the benefit of a gang.
Phillips said that Widstrand argued with “one of the kids” and was punched unconscious.
Authorities said several teens kicked Widstrand, jumped on his face and stole his shorts about 11:30 p.m. on Minnehaha Avenue at Preble Street. Police believe many in the crowd were gang members or have gang ties. Widstrand lived nearby.
Assistant Ramsey County Attorney David Miller played Phillips’ video. It shows a chaotic scene as girls fight and wrestle on the pavement.
The video then shows a figure whose face can’t be seen but who is wearing clothes matching what Widstrand was wearing that night. The figure approaches a girl sitting on the pavement, bends slightly and extends an arm.
Phillips said he saw three attackers, while another witness said that she saw about a dozen. Tanikqwa Givins testified that she threw herself over Widstrand to protect him.
Lisa Crockett, an acquaintance of Maiden’s, testified Wednesday that she was 3 to 4 feet from Widstrand and that his blood spattered onto her leggings. But Crockett contradicted her own testimony and statements she previously made to authorities, underscoring the trial’s complications and raising questions about the credibility of witnesses.
Crockett said Wednesday that she hadn’t seen Maiden during the attack because he fled down Preble because someone sprayed an irritant. That ran counter to her police interview, in which she had said Maiden was on Minnehaha. Then Crockett said in court that Maiden was 10 feet from Widstrand and wasn’t suffering from an irritant.
Under cross examination by Maiden’s attorney, public defender Bruce Wenger, Crockett first said she “didn’t even know” Maiden had been sprayed. Then, after reviewing a transcript of her interview with an investigator from the public defender’s office, she acknowledged she previously had said Maiden was sprayed.
Crockett, who slept at Maiden’s house after the attack, testified that Maiden did not hurt Widstrand.
Doctors initially didn’t think Widstrand would survive. He receives round-the-clock care, uses a wheelchair and struggles to speak. His mother, Linda Widstrand, said he underwent four hours of surgery Wednesday to replace two bone flaps in his skull and was doing well.
Three other teens are charged in the attack.