Winona man pleads guilty in manslaughter case

November 17, 2017

A Winona man has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the shooting death of another man last fall in the city.

Lucas Ryan Schultz, 21, pleaded guilty to a single count of second-degree manslaughter in the death of Riley Holden Sass-Loken, who died at a La Crosse hospital three days after the incident.

The sentencing will take place Jan. 4, 2018, and Schultz will be held at the Winona County Jail until then, with Third Judicial District Court Judge Jeffrey Thompson recommending work release.

While a sentence has not been finalized, a plea agreement between the state and Schultz’s defense could result in a sentence of 48 months, with a stay of execution for 10 years, during which time he would be subject to probation.

During the plea hearing, Winona County Attorney Karin Sonneman told Thompson that in speaking with the victim’s family, they indicated that they did not want Schultz to be sentenced to prison.

“It’s our understanding that they support this,” Sonneman said.

According to a criminal complaint filed directly following the incident, Winona police responded at 10:38 p.m. Nov. 11 to a reported shooting at a residence on the 300 block of East Third Street.

Officers found Sass-Loken in the apartment, bleeding from an apparent gunshot wound to the face.

According to witnesses — corroborated by Schultz at the plea hearing — a group of young men had been hanging out and drinking at the apartment earlier in the evening.

Earlier in the evening Schultz — who was 20 at the time — went into his bedroom and returned with a silver-and-gray .22-caliber semi-automatic pistol. Schultz showed the handgun to the other men, who passed it around before Schultz returned it to the bedroom.

During the plea hearing Schultz said it had belonged to his father, which had been borrowed for raccoon hunting.

Later in the evening, Schultz, Sass-Loken and others were in the kitchen, when Schultz went back into the bedroom and returned with the pistol. A witness told police that Schultz “was joking around and pointed the gun at (Sass-Loken’s) face,” the criminal complaint said. The witness said Schultz then “pulled the trigger, the gun fired, and (Sass-Loken) was struck in the face.”

Sass-Loken was taken to Winona Health, then transferred to Gundersen Health System in La Crosse, where he died three days later.

Police found Schultz outside the apartment immediately after the shooting, court documents state. He admitted shooting Sass-Loken, told officers where to find the gun, and said he was sorry.

A preliminary blood-alcohol test showed Schultz to have a blood-alcohol level of 0.172 percent. A blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent is considered to be legally drunk.

Police located the handgun with a live round in the chamber inside the residence, according to the criminal complaint. The magazine had been removed and was found next to the pistol.