Victim's Burnsville friend acquitted of manslaughter
A Dakota County judge found the case against Michael Schwartz inconclusive, but he did convict him of a misdemeanor.
By JOY POWELL1, Star Tribune
Last update: November 15, 2010 - 8:46 PM
A Burnsville man has been acquitted of second-degree manslaughter and four other charges in connection with the fatal shooting of his best friend nearly a year ago.
But Michael Cody Schwartz, 26, was convicted of one misdemeanor crime -- recklessly handling a gun --in connection with the death of Logan D. Ahlers, 25.
There wasn't enough evidence to convict Schwartz of the more serious crimes, which also included first degree assault, Dakota County District Judge Michael Sovis ruled Friday.
Gun residue was on the victim's right hand but not on Schwartz's hand, according to evidence and testimony presented during the trial earlier this month.
Schwartz, his cousin and Ahlers were drinking that night. Schwartz had picked up his semiautomatic pistol when Ahlers, apparently engaging in horseplay, rushed into Schwartz's apartment and the two began wrestling.
As they tussled, the gun went off, striking Ahlers in the neck, with the bullet exiting through his skull. He bled to death within minutes.
Schwartz had waived his right to a jury trial, leaving the verdict to be decided by the judge. In his order Friday, Sovis wrote:
The three men had been drinking at a local bar until closing on Nov. 21, 2009. The cousin, Jeffrey Plath, later told police there were a number of "unsavory" people at the bar.
The three became separated, and Schwartz went to his apartment. He got his .40-caliber handgun and went outside to sit in his truck. Plath arrived outside the building, and Schwartz told his cousin that he had been worried about him and Ahlers.
Schwartz and Plath went into Schwartz's apartment. Schwartz showed Plath the gun and racked the slide, putting a live round in the chamber.
Ahlers opened the door and rushed in, and the two began wrestling. Plath later told police that he didn't know who it was at first. It's not clear when, or if, the victim knew Schwartz had a gun in his hand.
After the gun went off, Schwartz called 911. He told authorities that he never pulled the trigger.
Fingerprint and DNA analysis of the trigger was inconclusive.