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Trevor Shelley

Second Mankato assault suspect denies hitting victim

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MANKATO, Minn. -- The second suspect arrested in the weekend beating of a former Minnesota State University-Mankato football player denied ever hitting the man, even after investigators told him the assault was caught on video.

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The investigators “advised (Trevor Stenner) Shelley that there was video surveillance of the area where the incident took place and Shelley maintained that he did not hit anyone,” according to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday in Blue Earth County District Court.

Within hours of the incident early Sunday in downtown Mankato, the 21-year-old Shelley was arrested at his father’s home in St. Peter after investigators collected eyewitness accounts, surveillance video and statements from Shelley. Police had released video of a man in a red shirt running from the scene.

Shelley made his initial court appearance Wednesday. He is charged with first- and third-degree felony assault in connection with the attack, which left Isaac Kolstad, a 24-year-old former Minnesota State-Mankato linebacker, fighting for his life. Shelley posted $20,000 bail Wednesday afternoon. He is due back in court May 22.

Defense attorney Michael Padden told KEYC-TV that Shelley will argue self-defense.

“This young man has a perfectly viable defense. I’m confident when all the evidence is on the table, he will be exonerated,” Padden said.

Philip Nelson, 20, a former University of Minnesota quarterback who had transferred to Rutgers University in New Jersey, was charged Monday with first- and third-degree felony assault in connection with the attack on Kolstad. He was freed on $20,000 bail Monday night and dismissed from the Rutgers football team Tuesday.

Nelson and Shelley attended Mankato West High School a year apart but apparently did not know each other, said Nelson’s attorney, Jim Fleming.

However, investigators looking for Shelley said he and Nelson were Facebook friends.

Drawing from witness accounts and surveillance footage of the city’s downtown entertainment district, authorities said a verbal confrontation between Kolstad and Nelson escalated when Kolstad knocked Nelson down with a punch to his back.

Shelley then allegedly punched Kolstad in the head, knocking him unconscious. At that point, Nelson delivered one or two kicks to Kolstad’s head as he lay on the ground, defenseless, authorities said.

Shelley told authorities he watched Kolstad hit Nelson in the back of the head, knocking both Kolstad and Nelson to the ground. Shelley also said an unknown man in a black shirt tried to hit him and missed — and that he ran from the area, according to the complaint.

He denied, multiple times, that he hit Kolstad, the complaint said. He also said he didn’t see Nelson hit or kick Kolstad.

However, a witness told police that Shelley told him shortly after the incident that he had been downtown “and that he walked up to someone that was ‘starting something’ with Nelson, and ‘wound up and hit him as hard as he could,’ ” the complaint said. The witness said Shelley was wearing a red shirt that was “halfway off” when they spoke.

One witness identified Shelley as the assailant in the red shirt even before police released the video. He told police he had grabbed Shelley by the shirt, ripping it. Other witnesses who later saw the video also identified the man as Shelley.

Kolstad was hospitalized with a severe head injury and underwent surgery Tuesday. He was still in critical condition Wednesday, his family said.

A separate online effort was underway to raise money for Kolstad and his family — wife Molly, daughter Kaidyn and “imminent baby girl #2,” according to their YouCaring.com fundraising site.

By Wednesday afternoon, nearly 500 people had pledged more than $26,000.

Nelson, who could face up to 25 years in prison, told police he didn’t remember kicking Kolstad and didn’t know the man in the red shirt, according to a criminal complaint.

The dispute, which occurred as bars were closing for the night, might have been sparked by drunken jealousy, according to the criminal charges in the case. Nelson reportedly had been angered by a bar bouncer who flirted with his girlfriend earlier in the evening. When he later saw Kolstad, he might have thought he was the bouncer, Nelson told authorities. When he was arrested at the scene, Nelson smelled of alcohol, police said.

Nelson started the Gophers’ final seven games as a freshman quarterback in 2012. In 2013, Nelson started nine of 12 games for Minnesota but decided to transfer after sharing duties with another player. He spent the spring semester at Rutgers.

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.

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