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Beach Dispute Leads To Gunfire, Assault Charge

A simmering beach dispute led to gunfire on the shores of Hayden Lake over the weekend, according to the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department.

Brad Nelson St. John, 38, of Hayden Lake was arrested on an aggravated assault charge Saturday night for allegedly shooting at one neighbor and threatening another with an 8-foot stick.

When sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene, a neighbor was sitting on top of St. John, holding his arms behind his back.

St. John denied the accusations when taken into custody at 10:30 p.m. He told officers he was shooting at a tree for target practice.

Despite the seriousness of the offense, St. John was released on his own recognizance at noon Sunday at the recommendation of county Prosecutor Bill Douglas.

“That’s one where the guy had no criminal record, he was local,” Douglas said. “It seems to have smacked of an ongoing dispute, and I kind of stirred that in.”

Because of lack of room in the jail over the weekend, several inmates were allowed to leave if they appeared unlikely to flee the county, Douglas said.

The alleged shooting occurred on the east side of the lake at the Gem Shores beach area, which most neighbors claim is a common area, but St. John believes he owns.

Capt. Ben Wolfinger said St. John has called the sheriff’s department in the past to complain that people are trespassing on his beach.

“We’ve been up there several times,” Wolfinger said. “We try to explain that anything below the high water mark is obviously state land. We’ve encouraged him to seek some kind of civil remedy.

“Apparently he hasn’t.”

Jeffrey Baker told officers that he was sitting on his picnic table at home next to the Gem Shores beach when St. John drove down to the beach.

St. John got out, fired off five rounds from a hand gun and shouted profanity at Baker, according to the deputy’s report. The deputy recovered shells from the scene. The bullets appeared to have been in Baker’s direction. A witness said he saw St. John shoot at Baker.

St. John then approached Baker, and the two argued. After St. John left, Baker said he heard William and Elizabeth Walkup yelling for help.

The Walkups told officers that they were walking their dog down to the beach when St. John approached them with a large stick, threatening them.

The Walkups claimed that St. John swung the stick like a baseball bat and told them, “If I see that dog down there I will kill the dog, and if I have to, you too.”

When they started yelling for help, St. John ran toward Baker, who tackled him, according to the report.

The deputy making the arrest reported that St. John smelled strongly of alcohol.

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