MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A St. Paul man faces a murder charge in connection to the Tuesday morning death of a man who was kicked repeatedly in the head, as though it were a football, a witness says.

Peter Louis John, 50, of St. Paul, is charged with second-degree murder for the death of 43-year-old Joseph Michael Saros, according to documents filed in Ramsey County.

St. Paul police arrested John after a report of an unconscious man sent them to an apartment on 714 East 3rd St. in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood, a criminal complaint says.

At the apartment, officers found a man – who turned out to be a witness – struggling to open the door as John said to him, “You called the police?”

Officers kicked in the door and found Saros’ body. The St. Paul man had blood on his face, and his skin was ashen. A medic pronounced him dead at 1:25 a.m., the complaint said.

Officers then separated John and the witness to find out what happened.

The witness — who was not named in the complaint, but was taken into custody — told officers that he had brought a half-gallon bottle of vodka to the apartment earlier that night. He, John and another man started drinking and before long Saros showed up.

Then, Saros started insulting those who were drinking, John and the other man began kicking him, the witness said. Both of the kickers wore boots, and were “winding up” like football punters to hit Saros in the head.

The witness told officers he tried to intervene, but the kickers told him that Saros was a child molester. After that, the witness sat down and eventually went to sleep.

When he woke up, he saw Saros on the floor with “blood everywhere.” When he told John he was going to call police, John reportedly responded saying: “Why you going to call police when he molested a kid?” The witness called police anyway. 

He later told investigators that he did not think John and the other man were trying to kill Saros.

When officers spoke with John, he never admitted to hitting Saros. He said Saros came to the apartment with a bloody face, saying he’d been assaulted by juveniles several blocks from the apartment. John said he told Saros to go to sleep, and that Saros did so on the living room floor.

Later, John told investigators that Saros was drunk when he came to the house.

The Ramsey County Medical Examiner said Saros’ blood ethanol level was 0.37. He also determined that Saros’ cause of death was from blunt traumatic injuries, and that he suffered two fractured ribs and fractured cartilage in his neck.

John was booked into the Ramsey County Law Enforcement Center. If convicted of the murder charge, he could face a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison. 

Police are still trying to find and identify the other man who allegedly kicked Saros, the complaint says.

The witness did not know the other man, but said he was in his early 50s, had long gray hair and wore Army-style clothes.