ST. PAUL — A New Hope man has been charged with assault and robbery after authorities say he pepper-sprayed an employee at a violin store in St. Paul earlier this fall and made off with four of the shop’s high-end instruments.

Quin Lane Howell, 29, was shown four instruments on a cloth-covered table in a backroom of Fein Violin on Sept. 19, according to a criminal complaint in Ramsey County District Court Collectively, the instruments were worth more than $40,000. It was there Howell whipped out a can of chemical irritant and sprayed it twice in the eyes of a juvenile female employee, “rendering her completely unable to see” authorities say.

Then Howell grabbed the violins and their cases and took off, the complaint said.

Officers connected Howell to the robbery after three of his probation officers and a St. Paul police sergeant identified him as the man caught on Fein Violin’s surveillance camera, the complaint said.

Howell’s criminal record includes three convictions for felony-level theft and two for fraudulently claiming state lottery prizes, court records say.

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He was charged with third-degree assault, simple robbery and theft in the most recent case.