A 52-year-old Minnesota man was charged Monday with killing a teenager and stabbing four other people at a popular summer tubing spot in Wisconsin in a confrontation with a separate group that, according to the man, began as he searched the river for a lost phone.
The man, Nicolae Miu, of Prior Lake, Minn., was charged with first-degree intentional homicide in the Saturday killing of the teenager, identified by his family as 17-year-old Isaac Schuman of Stillwater, Minn. Mr. Miu also faces four charges of attempted first-degree intentional homicide, a felony, according to a criminal complaint filed Monday in the Circuit Court of St. Croix County, Wis.
The complaint described a bloody scene in which Mr. Miu “waved” a knife at a group of young people during a dispute on the Apple River, a tributary to the St. Croix River, that is frequented by tubers and campers who visit from nearby St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Mr. Miu — described in the complaint as “an older male” with gray hair, weighing approximately 250 pounds — was captured on video running toward a group shirtless and carrying a snorkel, according to the documents. In the video, the group can be heard telling him to “get away,” according to the documents.
According to interviews with witnesses and victims, Mr. Miu was “bothering a group of juveniles on their tubes.” Members of this group “were yelling for help from other individuals floating down the river nearby,” according to the documents.
Witnesses said that a group of people came and stood between Mr. Miu and the juveniles and told him to leave. They also said that he punched or slapped a woman in the second group who was confronting him. According to the witnesses, Mr. Miu was then punched by a man and fell into the river, documents say.
Mr. Miu then began “stabbing multiple individuals who were near him,” according to the complaint. They described the knife as having a three-inch silver blade. After the stabbing, “there was enough blood in the river that the water turned a red tint in places,” court documents say.
The authorities have not released the names of the victims. The teenager was pronounced dead after being taken to a hospital. The four other victims were in stable condition, the authorities said.
In an interview with the authorities, Mr. Miu claimed he was acting in self-defense, and that he had initially approached the group because he was looking for a lost phone and thought one of them might have found it.
In a statement, the teenager’s family described him as an honor roll student looking forward to his senior year at Stillwater High School. They said he had hoped to pursue a degree in electrical engineering, and in the last year, had started a car and boat detailing business.
“Isaac entered every room with a big smile, infectiously positive aura, and lifted everyone around him up,” his family said in the statement. “He had an incredibly bright future ahead of him and we are all heartbroken and devastated.”
The injured were described as two men, ages 20 and 22, from Luck, Wis.; a woman, 24, from Burnsville, Minn.; and a 22-year-old man from Elk River, Minn., Sheriff Scott Knudson of the St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Sunday.
On a GoFundMe page, Ryhley Mattison said that she was among those injured in the attack.
Deputies waded about 100 yards through waist-deep water to reach the victims, who were also assisted by others in the river and emergency medical workers, Sheriff Knudson said. Mr. Miu had left the scene and was taken into custody at an exit point for tubers, the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
Mr. Miu was with a group of friends, including his wife, Sondra Dee Miu, according to documents. She told the authorities that she and her husband had arrived at the river around 10:45 a.m., and that at some point, he had left their group to try to find “a member of their parties’ phone that was lost.”
Ms. Miu told the authorities that while her husband was looking for the phone, a group of men got off their tubes and began to hit Mr. Miu, and that two members of her party had run toward Mr. Miu and the men who were fighting. Ms. Miu said that “all she heard was screaming” and that she did not see what happened, documents say.
She told the authorities that Mr. Miu had a knife in his pocket that was not very big. “Those guys grabbed it from him,” she said, adding that her husband had told her that a group of people “were calling him a pedophile and attacked him.”
After the stabbing, he ran back upriver and entered the woods, according to the complaint. The authorities arrested him after receiving reports at about 4:45 p.m. that witnesses had spotted him, documents say.
Jeremiah Harrelson, a public defender who represented Mr. Miu at Monday’s hearing, said he could not comment further on the case as he was no longer representing him.
In an interview with Brandie Hart, a lieutenant with the St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office, Mr. Miu said that he worked as a mechanical engineer, had bachelor’s degrees in engineering and mathematics, and that he had “never been in trouble with the law before.”
He said that his actions were an act of “self-defense” and that he had been looking for a lost cellphone which he believed was inside a “floater” — one of the bags provided to tubers to prevent valuables from sinking.
The group, he said, had insulted him for being in the water with his snorkel gear, calling him a “child molester.”
“They attacked me,” he told Lieutenant Hart, according to the complaint. “Everything happened so fast.”
A preliminary hearing is set for Aug. 12.
Vimal Patel contributed reporting.