A puff of marijuana smoke in a western Minnesota bar is suspected of triggering an ambush beating that left a small-town firefighter dead and four perpetrators still at large 11 days later, according to newly filed court documents.
Steven Hlinsky was found shortly before 1 a.m. May 5 bleeding from the nose and ear on the sidewalk outside the Muddy Boot Bar in his hometown of Forada, about 7 miles south of Alexandria, according to the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.
No arrests have been announced, but the documents name the four men who investigators say came to the bar together and left Hlinsky with bleeding on the brain, broken facial and skull bones and a detached retina.
Hlinsky, 46, was released from the hospital Friday and died Sunday at his home, the Sheriff's Office said.
Search warrant affidavits filed Monday by law enforcement were seeking court permission to go through two of the suspects' cellphones in pursuit of information about the beating.
Based on video surveillance and witness accounts, the filings also lay out what authorities suspect happened inside and outside the bar.
While inside the bar, one of the men blew marijuana smoke at Hlinsky. Hlinsky tried to escort the man outside. The man put Hlinsky in a headlock as the door opened, and a second suspect grabbed Hlinsky's right arm.
A bartender and one of Hlinsky's friends immediately went outside and saw a third suspect backing away from where Hlinsky lie. All four men in the group fled before law enforcement arrived.
A sheriff's sergeant caught up with one suspect, who said he was 40 feet from where the beating occurred and didn't see anything. He later said he was on his phone during the assault and "everything happened so fast, it was just a blur," the court document read.
Three suspects are 33 years old, and the fourth is 40. One of the 33-year-olds has a lengthy criminal history. Two have misdemeanors on their records. The 40-year-old has no criminal history in Minnesota.
Hlinsky was an assistant chief of the Fire and Rescue unit.
Along with son, Dominic, and daughter, Abby, Hlinsky is survived by his mother, Dorothy, and brothers Allan and Jon.