Killer of innocent bystander in bar shooting pleads guilty


Ron Powell pleaded guilty Tuesday to second-degree murder in the shooting death of an innocent bystander in Champions Bar last August, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced.

Powell, 43, of Minneapolis, immediately was sentenced to 15 years in prison, with credit for 285 days already served in jail while he awaited trial, which was to begin Monday. In exchange for the guilty plea on the most serious charge, two others were dropped: second-degree assault and felon in possession of a firearm.

Under questioning from his lawyer, Powell admitted that he was in Champions Bar, 105 W. Lake Street, Minneapolis, on Aug. 8, 2013 when another bar patron came up and started punching him. Powell agreed with his attorney’s question that he “came into possession of a gun” and fired three times. Bullets hit his assailant, but one of the bullets also struck Mark A. Stephenson, 51, who was standing at the bar, killing him.

Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Deborah Russell asked Powell if he agreed that although “you were being attacked by Mr. Collins, shooting in a bar is not a reasonable response?”

Powell responded with a “yes.”

Stephenson’s mother, wife, brother and sister-in-law all gave emotional victim impact statements in which they noted Stephenson was a good man and a good husband, father and grandfather. By contrast, they said, Powell was a career criminal. They also made the point that it was unjust that Powell would only serve about 10 years in prison, the other five on probation, while they would never see Stephenson again.

Hennepin County District Court Judge Martha Holton Dimick  expressed her condolences to the family and acknowledged there was no way she could explain to the family’s satisfaction that “there are certain rules the system has to follow.”