COON RAPIDS, Minn. (WCCO) – Police were called to Willie’s Bar and Grill around 12:40 a.m. Thursday after multiple shots were fired out in a parking lot.
Jacob Podvin had been inside the bar with friends and said it began as a dispute over poker chips.
“The guy I was with wanted an apology and a dispute happened, and the guy shot him, he was sitting in his car and shot him twice,” Podvin said.
He held 29-year-old Ray McCall in his arms until paramedics arrived, but McCall died after being transported to Mercy Hospital.
“I mean, I couldn’t believe it,” Podvin said.
Wednesday nights are designated poker nights at the bar and have traditionally been friendly games for minor prizes.
Investigators identified the suspected shooter as 43-year-old Chad Nelson of Ramsey.
Nelson lived in his home and cared for his elderly mother. But neighbors said that they recently sensed that something was wrong. They no longer saw Nelson outside nearly as often as in the past.
“I guess ever since his mother moved to a nursing home, he’s changed,” neighbor Rick Frazier said.
Nelson didn’t hide his anger over an early discharge from the National Guard where he was a C-130 mechanic.
“It’s a very sad situation,” said Nelson’s father, Jerome Caron, who stopped by the crime scene to learn more of what happened.
Caron said his son was troubled by the long simmering battle for his Army discharge benefits. He was disabled after getting hit by a truck while stationed at an Army base in Texas.
Nelson’s father explained that his son was also a part-time youth soccer referee who had stopped at the bar to play poker on Wednesday night.
“He was just trying to defend himself and on his way home,” Caron said. “He didn’t drink or do drugs.”
Police call the shooting an isolated incident, but they’ll work with the bar to see if there’s anything that could have prevented it.
“It doesn’t seem right that what was meant to be a friendly poker game led to something like this,” said Coon Rapids Police Chief Brad Wise.
Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo expects to file murder charges against Nelson on Monday.
The victim’s family has set up a GoFundMe account. Click here to donate.