MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A 32-year-old man is accused of punching an off-duty St. Paul police officer in the face and biting another officer on the arm after being confronted for trying to shoplift from a gas station over the weekend.

(credit: Hennepin County)

Julius Haddison-Fondanui Tasha, of Minneapolis, is charged with two felony counts of assaulting a peace officer, court documents filed in Ramsey County show. If convicted, he faces up to three years in prison for each count.

According to a criminal complaint, Tasha attempted to steal several items early Saturday morning from the Speedway on Seventh Street East in St. Paul.

An off-duty police officer working there approached Tasha, who returned some of the items but not the food that he’d heated up. When the officer told him to put down the food, he punched her three to four times in the face, a gas station employee told investigators.

The off-duty officer chased Tasha out of the gas station, where the two wrestled on the ground before Tasha broke free and ran off. The off-duty officer called for help.

Responding officers found Tasha a few blocks away, waving his arms and sweating profusely. After trying to hide under a tree, he swung a punch at one officer’s head, but the officer dodged the blow. During the arrest, in which Tasha struggled against officers, he bit one officer on the forearm.

In an interview with investigators, Tasha admitted to being at the gas station and warming up food. He said he put it back when the off-duty officer told him to and denied punching her.

Tasha made his first court appearance Tuesday. He is due back in court at the end of the month.