New Year’s Eve wasn’t much of a party for Apple Valley police, who responded to two separate incidents involving loaded guns within 14 hours – one in which they say the suspect threatened to “eat the face off” a paramedic, and another in which a man is accused of waving around a loaded gun at a party.
In the first incident, Craig John Ehrnreiter, 43, who lives in the 4700 block of 137th Circle West, was charged with two felony counts of making terroristic threats, each of which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine, and one count of child endangerment involving access to a loaded firearm, a gross misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $3,000 fine.
In the second incident, Michael Francis Hermanowski, 36, who lives in the 5100 block of 148th Path, was charged with felony second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon, which has a maximum penalty of seven years in prison and a $14,000 fine, and interference with an emergency call, a gross misdemeanor for which the maximum penalty is a year in jail and a $3,000 fine.
Apple Valley police responded to Ehrnreiter’s home just after noon Dec. 31 to check on the welfare of a woman who lived in the home, according to the criminal complaint. An acquaintance of the family told police that Ehnreiter had threatened to kill the woman, that he had a number of firearms in the home and that he had given the woman a half-hour deadline for something.
When police arrived, they heard loud music coming from the home, but no one answered the door to repeated knocks and doorbell ringing. They learned that the woman and her two daughters, ages 10 and 12, had left the residence.
The woman returned shortly afterward, and told police that she had taken the children to a relative’s home earlier in the day because she didn’t feel safe with Ehrnreiter, who had become addicted to prescription painkillers but had run out of them the week before.
The woman said that since he ran out of painkillers, he had been drinking to the point of intoxication. Police said she appeared frightened, and told them that Ehrnreiter had three handguns inside the house and possibly two long guns.
Authorities set up a perimeter around the house and used a public address system to order Ehrnreiter outside. He refused to come out, and called the woman on her cell phone instead, according to the complaint.
An officer answered the call and told Ehnreiter to come outside. He walked out wearing only boxer shorts and a T-shirt.
Officers ordered him to lie on the ground, but when he continued walking quickly toward police, they used a stun gun to subdue him.
Ehrnreiter was put into an ambulance, where he told police that he had several firearms in his house to prepare for the Mayan calendar apocalypse, according to the complaint. He also told a paramedic that he would kill him and “eat his face off,” the complaint charges.
The woman later told police that she and Ehrnreiter had argued that morning. During the argument, Ehrnreiter threatened to knock her to the ground, beat her to death and “eat her face off” in front of the children, according to the complaint.
Police found three handguns, a shotgun and a 30-06 rifle inside Ehrnreiter’s home. Both long guns were loaded and were in an unlocked closet; a loaded .40-caliber handgun was found in a dish in an unlocked laundry-room cabinet, according to the complaint.
Police were called to the second incident just before 1:30 a.m. Jan. 1 after someone reported that an intoxicated man had threatened partygoers with a gun.
When officers arrived, a woman told them that she and others had wrested the gun away from Hermanowski, and he had run into his house next door. Police surrounded the home and contacted him via cell phone, and he eventually emerged, yelling and crying, telling officers that he was suicidal and wanted to go to the VA Medical Center.
Hermanowski’s girlfriend told police that they had invited several people to their home for a New Year’s Eve party that eventually moved next door. She said Hermanowski made “condescending remarks” to her because she refused to do a shot of alcohol; another woman intervened, and Hermanowski left the party, returning a short time afterward.
He was talking to a woman about martial arts when he suddenly pulled a gun “out of nowhere” and began to yell, pointing it directly at his girlfriend and her son, according to the complaint. The woman told police that she sent her son to the basement and hid under a table as the other woman struggled with Hermanowski and wrenched the gun away from him.
The victim told police that Hermanowski had bought the gun on Dec. 31, and that she was afraid he was going to kill her.
Witnesses told police that Hermanowski and the victim had been “bickering” all night, and when he returned to the party after briefly going home, he pointed a handgun at her, yelling at everyone to get on the ground because “this is real.”
One witness said she tried to call 911 during the confrontation, but Hermanowski ripped the phone out of the wall.
Hermanowski was arrested and later told police that the victim had punched him in the mouth “out of the blue,” according to the complaint. He said he collected the gun and came back to the party because he wanted to be ready for “whatever situation presented itself,” the complaint says.
Hermanowski said he was attacked by three or four people, who punched him and put him in a chokehold, at which point he grabbed the gun and pointed it at the kitchen, ordering everyone to the ground, according to the complaint.
He said partygoers continued to struggle with him, and after the gun was knocked from his hand, he went home, barricading himself inside “as he was trained to do,” the complaint says. He claimed to be a military veteran and a member of the Minnesota National Guard.
Ehrnreiter has been released from custody on a $50,000 bond, and was ordered to stay away from the victim’s residence. An omnibus hearing in his case is scheduled April 8 in Dakota County District Court in Hastings.
Hermanowski was released from custody on a promise to make all future court appearances, and was also ordered to stay away from the victim’s home. His omnibus hearing is scheduled Jan. 28, also in Hastings.