All Eric Skripka wanted was some milk and orange juice.
What he got was a vicious beating and a couple of days in the hospital after he tried to stop a stranger from beating a woman on a St. Paul street.
Skripka sat in an office at Regions Hospital in St. Paul on Monday and told how he tried to stop the Saturday night assault. A man was beating up his girlfriend and turned on Skripka, punching and kicking him in the head until he was unconscious, after Skripka got off a city bus to help the woman.
His alleged attacker, Brian E. Harper of St. Paul, was charged in Ramsey County District Court on Monday with third-degree assault.
Skripka, 33, of St. Paul, said he doesn't remember the attack itself. He was on a No. 16 bus just before 7 p.m. Saturday, heading to Wal-Mart in St. Paul's Midway area to get some milk and orange juice, he said.
He saw a man hit a woman, then force her off the bus in front of the Spin Cycle Coin Laundry at 1491 University Av. Skripka followed.
"I just simply say, 'Dude, that's enough,' [thinking] maybe he'll back off," Skripka said. "He got in my face. I didn't flinch. I said, 'Dude, back off,' pardon my French but that's the words I used. Then I finally said, 'Dude, what's your problem?' The next thing I know is I'm waking up on a gurney. I was knocked out cold."
In addition to the cuts and bruises, he also suffered a concussion.
The criminal complaint filed Monday backs Skripka's story: "Numerous 911 calls indicated that an incident started as a domestic assault and concluded with an adult male being knocked unconscious," it said.
The complaint said Harper punched Skripka in the head, then braced his hands on a glass wall to support himself while he repeatedly kicked Skripka in the head.
"It appeared to the witnesses that Harper was kicking the victim as hard as he could," the complaint said.
Harper fled on foot after the assault. Officers found him hiding in a garage about a block away. Harper told police that he and his girlfriend were arguing but he denied hitting her. He said Skripka got off the bus and swung at him first, the complaint said.
At his news conference Monday, Skripka wore a Superman T-shirt the hospital gave him to replace the shirt they cut from his body. He said he served in the military police with the Minnesota Army National Guard. He's a laid-off electrician, working two part-time jobs. He has no health insurance, he said.
"I suppose I got more engaged than I should have," said Skripka, who was released from the hospital Monday afternoon. "I just wanted to do the right thing. If it was my sister or my friend getting assaulted, I'm going to do what I can.
"All he had to do was stop, all he had to do was stop assaulting her," said Skripka, who has had his own brushes with the law, the most recent a burglary charge in 2008 from Dakota County. "Just walk away from the situation, cool off. I don't know why he had to continue and then turn on somebody else."
Said police spokesman Andy Skoogman: "This guy was an innocent victim who was trying to do the right thing."
Pat Pheifer • 612-741-4992