Exclusive: Four teens arrested in Lakewalk beatingFour juveniles — three 17-year-olds and a 14-year-old — have been taken into custody as suspects in the May 20 beating of University of Minnesota Duluth student “Dash’’ Johnson, who was left unconscious on the Lakewalk.
By: Mark Stodghill, Duluth News Tribune
Four juveniles — three 17-year-olds and a 14-year-old — have been taken into custody as suspects in the May 20 beating of University of Minnesota Duluth student “Dash’’ Johnson, who was left unconscious on the Lakewalk.
Sgt. Mike Ceynowa, supervisor of the Duluth police Violent Crimes Unit, said evidence that investigators gathered at a sexual assault scene led them to the people involved in the savage beating of Johnson, a popular 21-year-old UMD communications major who just finished his junior year.
While investigating a rape case, Investigator Jared Blomdahl noticed some dried blood on a pair of shoes in the residence where two or three juvenile males and two juvenile females were allegedly involved in the sexual assault.
“He went back and looked at the Dash Johnson case because we had suspicions about this group prior to the criminal sexual conduct case,’’ Ceynowa said. “Jared went back with crime scene investigators and compared the evidence and they were able to determine that they were probably related.’’
Ceynowa said investigators showed one of the suspects the front page of the May 28 News Tribune where a large photograph was published of a smiling Johnson drinking from a cup.
“Basically, it was a really long process,’’ Ceynowa said. “We used your article in the interview process. We showed him (one of the 17-year-old males) a picture of what Dash looked like before and after the assault and really played upon his emotions to do the right thing.’’
Ceynowa said that 17-year-old identified Johnson from the photo as the person they had beaten. “He still only gave us bits and pieces of this, but he did establish some of the other people that were there,’’ he said.
Ceynowa said that 17-year-old has admitted his involvement and the 14-year-old boy admitted his involvement. Another 17-year-old admitted to being there and touching the victim’s wallet but has denied taking part in the assault, Ceynowa said. A 17-year-old girl, allegedly involved, was being interviewed by police this evening.
St. Paul police Officer Charlie Anderson, Dash Johnson’s cousin, traveled to Duluth last week to bring the case to the public’s attention in hopes of leading to the suspects.
“I’m just happy that things are turning out to at least bring some justice to what happened,’’ Anderson said. “It by no means erases the hurt or harm that Dash received. In fact, we’re looking to a long road to recovery.
"While we’re happy about how the investigation went, the real tragedy is playing itself out. Dash may not ever fully recover. It’s bittersweet, but we can’t be more proud of the work of the Duluth Police Department and we really send our appreciation to the wider Duluth community.”
The victim’s mother, Ruth Johnson of Arden Hills, Minn., was reached by phone, but asked for time to gather her thoughts and talk to her husband before publicly commenting.