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Police recover gun from tree after altercation

WORTHINGTON -- A Worthington man is charged with assault and riot after an altercation that took place over the weekend involving a 9 mm pistol.

Erick Josue Arauz, 19, is facing counts of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon, second-degree riot and fifth-degree assault. The charges stem from a report received by the Worthington Police Department at 9:36 p.m. Saturday about a fight on East Avenue, where there had been a warning there may be a firearm involved.

At the scene of the incident, an officer found 10 people standing on the grass and in the street. Some of them were arguing. The officer asked about the report of a gun and was told the man with the gun had just left, possibly heading toward the trailer park at Sungold Heights.

One witness said the man with the gun had showed him the bullets. The officer informed dispatch they were looking for a blue Skylark.

Another officer had spoken to two juveniles, who said they were walking on East Avenue when a blue car stopped and three people got out. One of the juveniles referred to the men as Erick, Luis and Miguel. He said Miguel hit him several times, and then Erick, who he identified as Arauz, put a gun to his temple and said "I'll kill you." He said he was hit with the gun a couple of times, but didn't fear the threats because he thought if Arauz was going to shoot him, he would have done it and not just threatened it.

The juvenile believed the incident was related to a fight that had occurred the night before between Miguel's brother and a friend of his.

Two hours after the initial call, a deputy stopped a blue Skylark on South Shore Drive and had the three occupants, one of whom was Arauz, exit the vehicle.

One of the men in the car told authorities he had been present when Arauz allegedly pointed the gun at the juvenile's head. He said they threw the gun away in the country and believed he could show the officers where they had thrown it.

The second man in the car said they had stopped to talk to the juveniles, and one was talking rudely to them. He denied having or seeing a gun.

When interviewed, Arauz said he had pulled up when he saw the juveniles walking, and one began to taunt them. Arauz said he exited the car to back up his friend, at which time they left. He said the incident had happened about 30 minutes before they were stopped by authorities. He denied knowing anything about a gun.

Authorities took the first man to look for the gun and were led to Anderson Park, south of Worthington on Lake Ocheda. The officers searched the area and at first located a small metal bat under some tree roots at the water's edge. The witness said it had been in the car but not used during the incident. He said they got rid of it because even though they didn't use it, it was a weapon.

An officer then noticed a blue bandana in the crotch of a tree. After photographing the item in the tree, it was removed. An officer opened the bandana and found a black 9 mm semi-automatic pistol with the hammer pulled back.

Also wrapped in the bandana was a magazine containing bullets. The officer secured the gun and noted there was no round in the chamber.

Arauz, who has a prior juvenile adjudication for fifth-degree assault from 2006, faces a maximum combined penalty of 13 years incarceration and/or $37,000 in fines. He was released from the Nobles County Jail on a $10,000 bond.

His next court appearance is scheduled for 9 a.m. May 6 at Prairie Justice Center.