Assault charge becomes murder after New Hope bar attack victim dies


A Minneapolis man was charged with murder after the victim in a New Hope bar attack died from his injuries over the weekend, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office announced Thursday.

Christopher Howard Gantt, 29, had previously been charged with aggravated assault not long after the June 14 incident which left John Hillstrom, 36, of Crystal, with a traumatic brain injury. Hillstrom died Sunday night and the Anoka County Medical Examiner determined it was a homicide caused by blunt force head injuries.

According to the criminal complaint made public Thursday, Hillstrom and his friends were at the Outtakes Bar & Grill in New Hope on the evening of June 13. Throughout the night, Gantt and another man had been arguing with Hillstrom and his friends, with the argument sometimes heated. Shortly after 1 a.m. on June 14, the bartender told Hillstrom to go back in the bar in order to let the other two men leave and diffuse the situation.

However, the two men came back to where Hillstrom and the bartender were standing and Gantt punched Hillstrom in the face, knocking him down. Dazed, Hillstrom was getting to his feet when the second man punched him again, knocking him to the ground where he hit his head on the pavement, the complaint states.

Gantt was arrested on the new charge Thursday afternoon.

Gantt criminal charge (PDF)