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Published November 07, 2011, 04:52 PM

South Dakota lawmakers credited with stopping bar brawl

FORT PIERRE, S.D. – Several South Dakota lawmakers have been credited with restraining a Minnesota man accused of pulling a knife in a Fort Pierre bar.

By: Associated Press, INFORUM

FORT PIERRE, S.D. – Several South Dakota lawmakers have been credited with restraining a Minnesota man accused of pulling a knife in a Fort Pierre bar.

Mark Bardwell, 41, of Zimmerman, Minn., faces simple and aggravated assault charges in the Friday night melee at the bar inside the AmericInn Lodge and Suites.

“It was really weird. It was just bizarre,” state Rep. David Lust, a Rapid City Republican, told the Argus Leader. “You don’t expect that in small-town South Dakota in a hotel bar.”

According to the lawmakers’ descriptions to the newspaper, here’s what happened:

A group of conservative South Dakota legislators came to Fort Pierre for a pheasant hunt to raise scholarship money for travel to events sponsored by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative organization.

After a banquet, some went to the hotel bar. A man who had been drinking there for several hours began acting erratically and at one point grabbed state Rep. Kristin Conzet, R-Rapid City, by the arm.

House Speaker Val Rausch, R-Big Stone City, intervened, at which point the man allegedly pulled a knife. Lust, the House majority leader, then stepped in. The man allegedly sheathed the knife, but took a swing at Rausch.

“Then the melee was on,” Lust said. “Myself and several others tackled him and held him down until the police arrived.”

Rausch said he dodged the man’s punch, but state Rep. Brian Gosch – who is the speaker pro tempore – suffered a cut to the finger as he struggled to ensure Bardwell didn’t pull the knife out again.

“If he’d have gotten the knife out of the sheath when we had him up against the wall, it would have gotten really bad,” said Gosch, a Rapid City Republican.

Stanley County Sheriff Brad Rathbun told the Argus Leader that deputies were dispatched to the scene at about 11 p.m. He said Bardwell drives a food service truck and is scheduled for his first court appearance Tuesday.

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