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Police continue to investigate brutal assault; more charges against the ambushing group are possible.

By JIM ADAMS, Star Tribune

Last update: July 16, 2008 - 10:09 AM

A woman whose husband was severely beaten trying to protect his daughter from being molested as the family left Valleyfair said Tuesday they remain traumatized and are still healing from bruises and injuries.

Eight young men are accused of taking turns stomping on and kicking the head of the 41-year-old man, who was knocked unconscious as his wife and three daughters tried to help him. Prosecutors say more serious charges could be brought against the men if the man's injuries are permanent.

"He is hanging in there," said his wife, who asked that the family not be identified out of fear for their safety. She didn't recognize their attackers: "I never seen them a day before in my life."

Shakopee police said serious felony assaults are unusual at the amusement park, which normally has a handful of misdemeanor assaults each summer. The park said Tuesday that 22 security guards were on duty the evening of the assault, July 4, when the fair closed at midnight, and that safety is a priority.

Police arrested seven of the suspects in the Valleyfair parking lot that night and the eighth escaped. Police did not have a good description of that suspect but would like help finding him.

Six men and a 14-year-old boy were charged July 8 with third-degree felony assault. More serious charges, and possibly a sex assault charge, may be filed after police finish their investigation, Scott County Attorney Patrick Ciliberto said Tuesday.

"This type of violence cannot be accepted in our community," he said. "We had a family at the fair enjoying the holiday. Behavior like this is personal to our community."

Ciliberto said Valleyfair has had "no assault of this magnitude" since he took office in 2002. He said the father was taken to Ridges Hospital in Burnsville for a fractured eye socket bone and other injuries. His office was told Monday that doctors were waiting for the man's swelling to subside before checking for permanent injuries, which could justify more serious charges.

The couple was nearing the exit gate with their three daughters at about midnight on July 4, when two young men approached and slapped the youngest girl, about 12, on her buttocks. Her father yelled at the men, one of whom pulled out a cell phone and called for others to join in on the assault.

The wife said she and her daughters tried to protect her husband, and are still recovering from being punched. Her husband has been home from the hospital for a week .

She said she couldn't say more for fear of hurting the prosecution's case.

The assault "was an isolated incident. This has not happened before," said Valleyfair spokeswoman Rachel Onken. "We are a very safe park." She said the guards handled the incident as they were trained and no immediate security changes are planned.

Shakopee Police Capt. Jeff Tate said Valleyfair has "a skirmish once in a while. We usually don't see anything escalate like this." He said park security officers do a good job and that this is the only felony assault this year. He said a domestic assault occurred in the Valleyfair parking lot in May and two juveniles were charged in June with disorderly conduct and misdemeanor assault.

One of the suspects, Darris D. Evans, allegedly punched a man in the face as the group left the unconscious father. Evans, 20, of Brooklyn Park, is charged with a misdemeanor assault for that offense, Tate said.

Besides Evans, five other men and an unnamed juvenile were charged with third-degree felony assault. The five are Derry D. Evans, 19, Minneapolis; Devondre Evans-Lewis, 18, of Columbia Heights; Terry L. Arnold, 22, Brooklyn Park; Andrew D. Shannon, 19, of Minneapolis, and Anthony C. Gildersleeve, 20, Edina.

Bail was set at $40,000 to $60,000 each and all the suspects posted bail bonds, a jail official said.

A check of state records show that two of the suspects have prior felony charges. Arnold and Evans-Lewis were arrested in an Eagan prostitution sting and charged in April with promoting prostitution in Dakota County. Arnold pleaded guilty in May. Arnold also was convicted of two misdemeanor assaults in 2005 and 2006.

Gildersleeve was convicted in March 2008 of carrying a pistol without a permit in a public place, a misdemeanor. Derry Evans was convicted of escaping from custody in January 2008. He was also convicted in May 2008 of disorderly conduct, a gross misdemeanor.

Staff writer Abby Simons contributed to this report. Jim Adams • 612-673-7658

http://www.startribune.com/local/25472764.html?location_refer=Local + Metro
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