Maplewood police investigating death stemming from Rice Street bar assault

Maplewood Police are investigating the death of a 40-year-old St. Paul man after he was assaulted inside Fred's Tiki Hut, a bar at 1820 Rice Street.

Currently, a 23-year-old man is in custody, being held on suspicion of murder.

According to Maplewood Police Chief Paul Schnell, Maplewood police were summoned to the bar just before midnight Tuesday, Nov. 11.

They found a man, 40-year-old Eduardo Alberto Figureroa, who said three assailants had beat him up and then fled in a vehicle.

Figueroa said he had been knocked down and kicked "numerous times about the face and head," police reported.

"Mr. Figueroa refused to be seen by paramedics, telling officers he preferred to go to the hospital on his own," the report continues. "About an hour after Mr. Figueroa returned to his St. Paul home, he told family members he was ill and shortly thereafter went unconscious."

St. Paul police officers and fire paramedics responded to the Figueroa home to find he stopped breathing and had no pulse. They undertook "an extensive effort" to revive him, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Trying to protect daughter

According to media reports, a woman associated with Smith and the other male suspect got into a confrontation with Figureroa's adult daughter, who had arrived at the bar to pick him up.

Figueroa reportedly tried to intervene, was knocked to the floor and kicked in the face and head by Smith and the other male

Acting on information regarding the license plate on the suspect vehicle, a Maplewood officer found the car in the area of Rice Street and Hyacinth still occupied by one of the men involved in the alleged assault. The occupant of the vehicle, Brandon Jermel Smith, age 23, of St. Paul, was arrested on suspicion of homicide. Investigators are actively seeking two other people, a man and a woman, in connection with the incident.

The identities of the two remaining suspects are not being released by police at this time.

The Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office is conducting an autopsy.

Anyone with information or knowledge as to the identity and/or whereabouts of the remaining suspects is asked to call the Maplewood Police Department at 651-767-0640 or 9-1-1. Anonymous text message tips can be sent by texting the word Maplewood and the tip information to TIP411 (847411).

Troubled past

This is not the first time the bar at that location has garnered police attention; a former iteration, "Rookies Sports Bar," reportedly became a locus for fights, assaults and alleged gang activity in 2011-12.

At one point, the bar had racked up 50 separate calls to police in less than a year -- on average, more than once a week.

Rookies ran afoul of gambling laws due to betting on turtle races, featured overcrowding and parking problems and at one point was the setting for what police described as "a riot" with more than 50 people throwing fists and bottles in the parking lot, the bar manager hiding in her office and terrified patrons stampeding down Rice Street. That incident led to a review of the owners' liquor liscense and a call on the carpet in front of the city council.

Neighbors, police and Maplewood City Council members breathed a sigh of relief when the place was sold and rebranded as a tiki bar. According to a story in the Review in January 2013, John Klein, the incoming owner, planned to institute a strict dress code, banning sleeveless shirts, baggy pants and dangling jewelry that seemed to be favored by the Rookies crowd.

-- Holly Wenzel

Past story links:

Sports bar under fire for 'riot' -  3/06/2012

Rookies could lose liquor license - 4/17/2012

Rookies bar transformed to tiki bar - 1/16/2013

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