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Duluth head shop owner Carlson assaulted outside his business

Last Place on Earth owner Jim Carlson talks with Duluth, Minn., police Officer June Sackette on Wednesday night, July 10, 2013, after Carlson was assaulted while closing his store in downtown Duluth. (Clint Austin/Duluth News Tribune)

DULUTH -- Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay called the scene he viewed firsthand Wednesday night surreal.

There standing woozily in front of The Last Place on Earth head shop on Superior Street was owner Jim Carlson with his shirt open and blood running from his face down his chest.

The man who Ramsay and city officials have practically declared Public Enemy No. 1 for allegedly victimizing the community by selling synthetic drugs was himself a victim of a woman who, according to court records, has purchased Carlson’s synthetic drugs.

A police officer told Carlson that an ambulance was on the way. Carlson said he didn’t need any medical attention.

The 34-year-old Duluth woman was arrested on a charge of fifth-degree assault. Carlson said a man was also involved in the assault. Police said the investigation is continuing.

“We got a person who has a problem with alcohol and heroin,” Carlson said about 11:15 p.m. while standing outside his shop minutes after the assault. “We got a restraining order keeping her out and she tried breaking in here. She was with some guy and I got into a fight with him. I got a cracked shoulder bone. They both hit me. Police have a problem with her drinking and heroin use just like daily, but they don’t do nothing.”

Police have done something. According to court records, the woman was charged June 11 with possessing a synthetic cannabinoid and trespassing a business. According to police reports, the woman said she purchased a synthetic drug called “Lights out” from Carlson’s store. She said she gave Carlson a knife for the synthetics. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Sept. 5.

On June 26, the woman was again cited for trespassing at Carlson’s shop.

On June 29, police received a report of the same woman being intoxicated and disturbing others in a bathroom near the Lakewalk. She was smoking a cigarette and was cited for a city ordinance violation. She owes $285 on that petty misdemeanor.

The police chief walked up to Carlson and told him that police had been responding to synthetic drug problems all night long. Carlson didn’t respond. Ramsay walked away as another of his officers interviewed Carlson.

“To be honest with you, with his clientele — the people that go in and out of there and the erratic behavior that we’ve seen — I’m surprised that things like that don’t happen more often to him,” Ramsay said. “It sure happens to enough other innocent people, victims of synthetic users.”

Reached on his cellphone Thursday, Carlson said there were three assailants — two women and a man. He said he drove himself to St. Luke’s hospital. He said he suffered a broken bone in his right shoulder and needed six stitches to close a hole under his lip where he said a male assailant punched him with a ring hand.

He said the incident started when the woman charged in the assault “came up and started kicking in the door, saying ‘I’m going to kill you.’ ’’

Carlson pointed out that the woman accused of assaulting him wrote a letter to the editor published in the Duluth News Tribune in April commending him. In that letter, the woman wrote: “Much love and respect to Carlson. Stand proud, and stay strong, my friend. Your heart is filled with gold.”

“She’s a wonderful person when she’s not drinking, but you get too much alcohol and some pills and some of these people they go nuts,” Carlson said.

Nearby merchants have complained that Last Place customers who hang out in front of the store interfere with their business and the city says the business is a public nuisance.

Authorities allege that some of the synthetic drugs Carlson illegally sells are in a class of chemicals perceived as legally mimicking cocaine, LSD and methamphetamine. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is trying to ban or control the synthetic stimulants because some users have reported impaired perception, reduced motor control, disorientation, extreme paranoia and violent episodes.

Mark Stodghill | Duluth News Tribune

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