MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A Twin Cities man is facing misdemeanor charges in connection to a scuffle at a school board meeting over mask mandates.
Thomas Kahlbaugh, 46, of Carver, is charged via summons with one count of fifth-degree assault and one count of disorderly conduct in connection to the fracas at the Eastern Carver County Schools meeting on Sept. 27, court documents filed in Carver County show. Either charge carries a possible penalty of 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
According to the documents, Kahlbaugh was at the school board meeting in Chaska and became visibly upset after another man, who identified himself to WCCO-TV as Jonas Sjoberg, spoke in support of local officials who instituted a mask mandate.
Kahlbaugh initially walked over to exchange words with Sjoberg, but made no physical threat. However, near the end of the public comment section, Sjoberg used his phone to take a photo of Kahlbaugh. He told investigators that he planned to notify the school board that he believed Kahlbaugh was intentionally seeking to intimidate people and stop them from speaking at the meeting.
After Sjoberg took the photo, Kahlbaugh rolled his chair over to Sjoberg and grabbed his phone. When Sjoberg attempted to take his phone back, Kahlbaugh grabbed Sjoberg's shirt, rolled his chair backyards and pulled Sjoberg part way across the room, the court documents say. Before the two men were broken up, Kahlbaugh threw Sjoberg's phone on the floor.
Sjoberg's shirt was ripped and a button torn off. Court documents said he many have suffered a scratch on his chest.
The scuffle was captured on a live stream, marking then the latest flashpoint in a bitter nationwide battle over COVID-19 policies in schools. In Minnesota, since students have returned to in-person learning, there's been a surge in case growth as the Delta variant continues to spread. Currently, only about 50% of those 12 to 15 are fully vaccinated.
The day after the incident, Sjoberg told WCCO-TV he went to the school board meeting to show support for elected officials in difficult jobs and as a "counter-weight" to other members of the community who were angry and vocal over the district's mask mandate.
In a statement, district leaders condemned the altercation, adding that there will be an increased police presence at future meetings, citing safety concerns.
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