35W bridge workers accused in anti-gay assault


A Minneapolis man walking downtown Tuesday evening was assaulted by men whom witnesses say were part of the 35W bridge construction crew. While the victim was straight, he was attacked because the assailant thought he was gay.

Karl Aarsheim, 32, left the Minneapolis Eagle, a Washington Avenue gay bar, where he and his wife were meeting a friend for drinks Tuesday evening. On his walk home at around 11:30 p.m., several men in orange construction vests approached him. One of the men asked, “Are you a faggot?” Aarsheim replied, “No. And so what if I am?”

One of the men then assaulted Aarsheim. He was kicked in the head and neck, leaving swelling and bruising, and needed a number of stitches near his eye. The attacker was was detained by a group of young men on bicycles who happened by the scene.

The suspect, Otto Marin, was arrested in the assault but was released Wednesday after paying $40, Aarsheim’s sister-in-law Wendy Brovold told the Minnesota Independent. Marin’s probation officer also called Aarsheim to confirm the incident. When Flatiron Construction, the company hired by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, learned of the attack, they fired Marin, KSTP reported Wednesday evening.

Aarsheim’s wife, Nikki, was distraught over the attack. “This is my neighborhood and I don’t want these things to happen in Minneapolis. We want to bring this to the attention of as many people as we can.” She continued, “I cannot believe that gay bashing still happens.”

The Aarsheims are regular customers of the Washington Avenue bar Grumpy’s, whose manager said Marin and his accomplices have been thrown out of the bar twice for aggressive behavior.

Nikki’s sister Wendy Brovold was also furious about the assault, primarily because of the likelihood that it was perpetrated by a member of the construction crew rebuilding the collapsed 35W bridge.

“The primary attacker wore his crew jacket as he monstrously attacked an unarmed man, allowing everyone in Minneapolis to see what, exactly, the state was paying for,” Brovold wrote in an email. “Moreover, we have reason to believe that at least one of these men is already on criminal probation.”

The attack follows a similar incident in late June. A man was badly beaten at the intersection of 6th St. and Cedar Ave. after the suspect, Abdirizak Mohamed, asked the man if he was gay. When the man “proudly answered ‘yes,'” Mohamed hit him several times in the face and told the victim that he hated homosexuals.

In addition, a recent report showed a 135 percent increase in anti-LGBT violence in Minnesota in 2007.

Although the majority of attacks based on sexual orientation are committed against gays and lesbians, in Karl’s case, just the perception of being gay opened him up to brutal attack, an attack that has rightfully angered his family and raised concern in the community.

“This hate crime was paid for by the state of Minnesota,” wrote Brovold referring to the suspects’ connection to the bridge repair work. “What I would like is media coverage, and I’m hoping people can help spread the word that this shit still happens.”