MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A 28-year-old Golden Valley man has been charged with allegedly killing prominent Medtronic scientist Aleksandre Sambelashvili by head-butting him at a private gathering this summer.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Friday Erik Kravchuk is charged with first-degree manslaughter in the attack on Sambelashvili, 42, at a club in Minneapolis in late July. The father of two from Minnetonka died a month later in the hospital.

Minneapolis police say Kravchuk clammed up when they told him Sambelashvili had died, so what motivated the attack isn’t clear.

“We’re so angry,” said Lev Freyman, Sambelashvili’s friend and bandmate.

According to the criminal complaint, the incident occurred on the afternoon of July 28 at an organized ethnic event at a bar located on 10 South Fifth Street in Minneapolis. There, Kravchuk is accused of suddenly and violently head-butting Sambelashvili after he walked towards him.

Freyman rushed to the hospital the morning of the attack after receiving a call from Sambelashvili’s wife.

“What we saw was just devastating. I mean, you know, he was in a coma. That’s it. We never got a chance to talk to him again. He never came back from his injuries,” Freyman said.

Aleksandre Sambelashvili (credit: CBS)

Until Friday, what happened to Sambelashvili has been a mystery.

“After he passed, you know, all of our focus is now on getting some answers,” Freyman said.

Some of those answers came Friday afternoon. According to the criminal complaint, bar surveillance footage shows Kravchuk head-butt Sambelashvili, who is immediately knocked unconscious. He then falls back and hitting his head on the floor.

“I don’t know anything about this person, but I know a lot about my friend,” Freyman said.

Sambelashvili, who received his doctorate from the University of Minnesota, was a long-time Medtronic employee. He developed a life-saving algorithm as a research scientist there. In a statement, Medtronic officials said, “Because of Alex’s work, many patients with cardiac problems have been restored to better health and lived longer lives.”

“Not everybody can say that they’ve done something like this in their lives, so, I mean, his impact is already legendary,” Freyman said.

The father of two had many other talent, and a musical gift. His friends and family are still trying to understand why he was taken too soon.

“We’re trying. Trying the best we can,” Freyman said.

Sambelashvili was rushed to the hospital with a brain injury, and later died there almost a month later on August 23. Using video surveillance and credit card transaction history, officers located and arrested Kravchuk, according to the complaint.

Kravchuk could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted, in addition to a $30,000 fine. Prosecutors will request a bail of $500,000 when he makes his first appearance.

In response to the charges Friday, Sambelashvili’s family put out this statement:

Today we — Alex’s family and friends — have seen for the first time the specific allegations that the State has brought against Erik Kravchuk. We are dismayed and disappointed that the State has allowed bail to be reduced and for Kravchuk to be given an opportunity to be released before trial, given the extraordinarily violent nature of attack that resulted in Alex’s death.

We expect the State to put all available resources into pursuing just and timely conclusion to this case.

Erin Hassanzadeh

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