A Minnesota man is facing a murder charge for punching a high school hockey coach during a deadly dispute that started over social distancing, prosecutors said.
Ryan John Whisler, 44, of St. Paul, was charged with second-degree murder Monday in the death of Michael G. Ryan, 48, who coached the girls’ hockey team at Jefferson High School in Bloomington, according to the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office.
Witnesses at a bar in St. Paul told cops Whisler and Ryan went at the same time to the bathroom, where some urinals were covered in cellophane to encourage social distancing, according to a criminal complaint.
Whisler then took cellphone video of himself urinating at the covered urinal, which
“agitated” Ryan, but the coach didn’t say anything, the complaint states.
Ryan later called out Whisler as his group was leaving the bar, setting off an argument that continued outside, prosecutors said.
But Whisler then allegedly pulled Ryan’s mask from his face while grabbing his shirt and punched him once in the face as witnesses tried to separate the pair.
Prosecutors said the blow caused Ryan to fall backward down a set of nine stairs and hit his head on concrete. Responding cops found him lying on his back in a “pool of fresh blood” at the bottom of the steps, according to the complaint.
Ryan was rushed to a hospital, where he was diagnosed with a brain injury that doctors said he could not survive. He was removed from life support on Sunday, prosecutors said.
Whisler surrendered to St. Paul police the same day Ryan died. A medical examiner ruled the man’s death a homicide due to a traumatic brain injury, the complaint states.
Whisler, who faces up to 40 years if convicted, is accused of causing Ryan’s death without intent. He was expected to make his initial court appearance early Tuesday, prosecutors said.
Ryan’s team, meanwhile, has asked the Bloomington community to respect the privacy of the late coach’s wife and daughters.
“Please keep them in your prayers as they begin to mourn his loss,” the team tweeted Monday.
A message seeking comment from Whisler’s attorney was not immediately returned Tuesday.