ST. PAUL — A high school hockey coach died after a man punched him in downtown St. Paul, leading him to fall down a flight of stairs and hit his head, according to a murder charge filed Monday, April 19.

Prosecutors say the incident stemmed from a verbal argument at a downtown bar on Saturday night, April 17; the men didn’t know each other previously. Mike Ryan, who was 48 and head coach of the Bloomington Jefferson Jaguars girls hockey team, died on Sunday, April 18, from a brain injury.

The Ramsey County attorney’s office charged Ryan John Whisler, 43, of St. Paul, with second-degree unintentional murder.

Two friends who were with Ryan at Herbie’s on the Park in St. Paul Saturday night told police that Ryan went to the restroom at the same time as Whisler. Some urinals were covered with plastic wrap to encourage social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Whisler punched a hole in the cellophane and took a cellphone video of himself urinating at the covered urinal,” according to the complaint, which went on to say Ryan “was agitated with Whisler, but he didn’t say anything to Whisler at the time. (Ryan) called Whisler out for his behavior in the men’s bathroom as they were leaving the bar which led to a verbal confrontation.”

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Mike Ryan (Courtesy of the Bloomington Jefferson Jaguars)
Mike Ryan (Courtesy of the Bloomington Jefferson Jaguars)

One of Ryan’s friends told police that “Whisler took a lot of verbal abuse” from Ryan, but things seemed to calm down when they got outside.

However, surveillance video outside the bar showed Whisler grabbed Ryan’s shirt and Ryan held onto a railing trying to pull away. Whisler apparently struck Ryan as Ryan’s mask fell from his face, the complaint said.

A man with Whisler got between him and Ryan, after which Whisler punched Ryan’s “head with a large, sweeping motion,” the complaint said. “The video, when played frame by frame, shows Whisler pushed (Ryan) towards the stairs. (Ryan) flew through the air to the bottom of the stairs and his head hit the concrete.”

Officers were called to the bar about 11 p.m. Saturday and found Ryan on his back at the bottom of a flight of nine concrete stairs.

Police were able to get Whisler’s name from the bar because he used a credit card to pay.

Ryan John Whisler (Courtesy of the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office)
Ryan John Whisler (Courtesy of the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office)

Paramedics took Ryan to Regions Hospital, where doctors diagnosed him with a brain injury he couldn’t survive, the complaint said. He was put on life support to allow for notification of his family.

Whisler, who was at a Minnesota Wild game before going to the nearby bar on Saturday night, turned himself in to police on Sunday and declined to make a statement to an investigator.

His attorney, Ryan Garry, said Monday it was too early for him to comment on the case.

Mike Ryan lived in Bloomington, and is survived by his wife and two teenage daughters.