Suspect Charged in Assault of Minnesota Republican

A Minnesota man was recently charged with assaulting a Republican candidate for state office while the two engaged in a political conversation at a bar in October.

As The Minnesota Sun previously reported, Republican Shane Mekeland, campaigning for office in Minnesota District 15B, reported to the police that he had been sucker-punched on the campaign trail and suffered a concussion.

“While I had never met my assailant, the words he yelled at me before he attacked lead me to believe his actions were politically motivated,” Mekeland later related. “When I chose to run for office, I expected to be politically attacked, but never physically.”

The Benton County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that it was investigating the alleged assault, and announced Tuesday that it had charged 53-year-old Richard Donald Schmit in the crime. According to KARE 11, Schmit yelled “you [expletives] don’t give a [expletive] about the middle class” before punching Mekeland in the face.

“The punch was hard enough that the bar stool, with a high back, went over backwards taking Mekeland with it to the floor,” prosecutors said, noting that the Republican’s medical records show that he suffered “a closed head injury, concussion, nasal injury,” and broken blood vessels in his eye.

Schmit has been charged with one felony count of third-degree assault, and two misdemeanor counts of fifth-degree assault, and the case has been forwarded to Benton County Attorney’s Office, according to Sheriff Troy Heck.

“In order to ensure the County Attorney’s Office had the information they would need to charge the proper level of crime, deputies interviewed the victim and all identified witnesses, interviewed the suspect, gathered Mekeland’s medical records, and sought any other relevant evidence,” Heck reports. “Now that this investigation has been completed, the County Attorney’s Office will review the information and determine the proper course for this prosecution.”

Mekeland was one of two Minnesota Republicans to claim they were assaulted while on the campaign trail, the other being Rep. Sarah Anderson (R-Plymouth). Anderson lost her bid for reelection, though Mekeland won his first campaign against Democrat Karla Scapanski 59 percent to 34 percent.

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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].






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