Willie Navy, who was severely beaten in a Feb. 6, 2011, attack in downtown Brainerd by two men who have since been sentenced to prison for the crime, is seeking $750,000 from the Brainerd bar and its insurers for their alleged role in the crime.
Navy’s attorney, Steven Lastovich, said Wednesday he has not filed a civil lawsuit against Yesterday’s Gone and its insurers, but has sent them a formal letter of demand for them to pay for Navy’s medical and legal costs.
Lastovich said the bar and its insurers have 60 days to respond. If they don’t, he plans to file a formal civil lawsuit.
Yesterday’s Gone owners are Steven and Paula Zelinske. Steven Zelinske said he was advised by his attorney to not comment on legal action surrounding the Navy case.
The suspects who assaulted Navy — Travis Arnold Campbell of Pequot Lakes and Lucas Eastwood of Backus — were sentenced in Crow Wing District Court to prison terms after attacking Navy after the three left Yesterday’s Gone. The men were convicted with felony first-and third-degree assault and the gross misdemeanor fourth-degree assault motivated by bias charge was dismissed during sentencing.
According to the criminal complaint, while officers and an ambulance crew were attending to Navy, an employee from Yesterday’s Gone arrived and told officers that a man later identified as Eastwood had wanted to assault Navy in the bar right before the bar closed because Navy was black and Eastwood wanted to fight. The employee told Eastwood not to start anything in the bar. The employee told investigators that Eastwood wanted to fight with that “(expletive) black guy” because he was in Yesterday’s Gone. The employee told Eastwood not to assault anyone. The employee said he then got busy with last call and closing the bar.
Lastovich said the bar allegedly did nothing to warn or protect Navy. He said Navy believes that if the bartender would have warned him about the threat, the beating could have been avoided.
Lastovich said under Minnesota law, a bar has a legal duty to its patrons in a situation like Navy’s and that it was the bartender’s obligation to either warn Navy, eject the wrong doers or notify the police department. Lastovich also said that under the Minnesota dram shop law, that the bar is liable to Navy for its illegal actions in serving Eastwood and Campbell while they were intoxicated.
Lastovich said Navy suffered fractured facial bones, partial vision loss in his left eye, permanent facial disfigurement and a neck injury. Lastovich said Navy has incurred nearly $50,000 in medical bills.