St. Paul celebrity chef Justin Sutherland threatened to shoot girlfriend and choked her, police allege

Celebrity chef Justin Sutherland was arrested Monday and charged with threatening to shoot his girlfriend and pointing a gun at her in St. Paul last week.

Sutherland, 39, is charged in Ramsey County District Court with making threats of violence. The incident happened just after 8 p.m. Friday in the 800 block of Front Avenue when police received a report of a man with a gun.

The woman told police that Sutherland pointed a gun at her, swore to shoot her, choked her and struck her in the chest with the weapon, the criminal complaint states. Fearing for her life, she put her hands up and pleaded not to be shot, the complaint adds.

Officers arrested Sutherland that evening, which was the second police visit in connection with a domestic violence report. While in jail, Sutherland said the allegations were false, the criminal complaint states.

Sutherland appeared in court Monday morning and was released on his own recognizance and ordered to surrender all his guns to police within 24 hours. He is due in court again on Aug. 16.

His attorney, John Daly, told the Star Tribune that the complaint “is filled with lies. He has never physically attacked anyone, never pointed a gun at anyone and never choked anyone. … Mr. Sutherland is a nonviolent, warm and energetic member of the community.”

Sutherland was the original executive chef of Handsome Hog, a Southern-style restaurant in St. Paul that opened in 2016. He has severed ties with the eatery but has since opened a breakfast sandwich shop called Big E’s on Grand Avenue in St. Paul.

He was also planning to open a new restaurant with his father, Kerry Sutherland, at the former location of the Golden Thyme Cafe in St. Paul’s Rondo neighborhood. Last month, he announced plans to open Pearl & the Thief on the ground floor of the 22-story O2 luxury tower in Minneapolis’ Mill District.

Sutherland has made numerous TV appearances, participating on “Top Chef” and winning “Iron Chef America.” He won an Emmy Award for his web series “Taste the Culture.”

According to the criminal complaint:

A 911 caller reported that shortly after 8 p.m. he saw a man, later identified as Sutherland, enter the back door of a building with a gun, accompanied by a woman with her hands up.

Around the same time, a second 911 caller said she was on FaceTime with her sister, who said her boyfriend was trying to kill her. This caller heard Sutherland say, “I wish you were dead right now.” The caller added that Sutherland had his hands on his sister’s neck. He also took the phone away from his sister and threw it down, the caller said.

Police arrived and found Sutherland coming out from behind the building. An officer ordered him to turn his face away and put his hands on his head. “I called 911, and you’re trying to [expletive] Are you going to arrest me?’ the complaint quotes her as yelling. ‘You should just arrest me.’ [expletive] Kill me.’ “

During the arrest, Sutherland followed the officer’s commands but hurled racial slurs at the officer.

Another man who came out of the building told police that he and Sutherland were longtime friends. He told police that Sutherland had moved into the building a week earlier and was planning to open a restaurant there. In the meantime, Sutherland was living in an apartment there, the friend said.

Sutherland texted him that day to say he and his girlfriend were fighting. The friend said he was coming over to calm things down.

The “shaking and crying” girlfriend told police she and Sutherland had been a couple for two years, and that they had been fighting because Sutherland had told her they weren’t going to the concert.

She also said he was taking revenge on her for the harassment he faced from his neighbors who were being racist towards him. That’s when he called his sister. She said he pressed her neck with both hands and said, “I want you dead.”

She said she went to a neighbor’s house to use the phone, and Sutherland walked out of the building with a handgun and told her he would shoot her if she returned. The girlfriend added that as she approached him, Sutherland pointed the gun at her and then struck her in the chest with the weapon. She said she put her hands up and said, “Don’t shoot me.”

In an interview with police, the woman said Sutherland warned her, “‘Take two more steps. I dare you.'”

He said his friend soon arrived and disarmed Sutherland, who yelled at him that he wanted to kill him. He told police about the gun and that he had other firearms in his home.

When police searched the house, they found a gun case on a bed with two handguns inside. One of them had blood on it. Sutherland’s hands were covered in blood when police arrived. Officers also found eight other guns and ammunition in the house.

She said Sutherland had been physically and verbally abusive to her before, including breaking the windshield of her car two days earlier.

Police had already been at the home about 90 minutes earlier when the girlfriend called 911 and said Sutherland had choked her and tried to drag her out of the apartment. She refused to give dispatch her name and repeatedly disconnected from 911. Officers spoke with her and she said everything was OK. No arrests were made based on the earlier call.

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