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Golden Valley man charged with manslaughter for headbutting man who later died from injuries

Updated: September 13, 2019 07:11 PM

In a criminal complaint filed in Hennepin County on Friday, prosecutors said “no sign of conflict” was apparent when a man suddenly head-butted 42-year-old Alex “Sasha” Sambelashvili, knocking him unconscious inside the Exchange and Alibi Lounge in Minneapolis on July 28.

The victim— a husband, father of two, and well-respected scientist at Medtronic— died from a brain injury at Hennepin County Medical Center on Aug. 23. 

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The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide and on Thursday, police arrested Erik Kravchuk, 28, of Golden Valley. He is now charged with first-degree manslaughter. 

After police arrested Kravchuk, they say he refused to admit he was the person shown head-butting Sambelashvili on surveillance video, but did admit he was the man shown at other times in the night signing a credit card receipt. 

Kravchuk’s attorney tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS her client plans to plead not guilty. 

A spokesperson for the owners of the Exchange and Alibi Lounge told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS:

“We feel horrible for everyone involved. The team on-site called an ambulance and did everything in its power to help the situation.”

A witness to the alleged assault told investigators the victim and suspect were attending a Russian Club Night at the bar, but Sambelashvili’s friends and family members say they still have questions about what happened.

“We called people and we know people who were there. Nobody saw anything,” said Lev Frayman, a close friend of the victim.

“The idea of him getting in a fight? That’s not Sasha,” Frayman said. “[He was] always de-escalating the situation… he was the sweetest guy you could ever know.”

An obituary for Sambelashvili stated that he worked on improving the lives of patients with heart disease in his role at Medtronic where he authored 17 peer-reviewed publications and filed over 25 patents.

Medtronic shared the following statement with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS on Friday:

"Alex Sambelashvili was a kind and thoughtful colleague, and an extraordinarily talented scientist who worked at Medtronic for the past 15 years. Because of Alex’s work, many patients with cardiac problems have been restored to better health and lived longer lives.
 
We are providing support to Alex’s family, and we send them our deepest sympathies."

Away from work, friends say Sambelashvili was a skilled accordion player and an avid fisherman.

“I want to know what happened. I want to know what happened. We are all in shock,” Frayman said.

Man dies due to injuries from July assault, 1 in custody

Prosecutors requested bail as high as $500,000 for Kravchuk, but a judge granted the defense’s request to set bond at $50,000 with electronic monitoring.

Frayman was in court on Friday and issued the following statement on behalf of Sambelashvili’s family and friends after the hearing:

“Today we have seen for the first time the specific allegations that the state has brought against Erik Kravchuk. We are dismayed and disappointed that the state has allowed bail to be reduced and for Kravchuk to be released before trial, given the extraordinarily violent nature of attack that resulted in Alex’s death.

We expect the state to put all available resources into pursuing just and timely conclusion to this case.”

The attorney for Kravchuk and a woman identified as his fiancée declined to comment after the hearing.


Crimes like the one that led to Sambelashvili's death are up in the Minneapolis Police Department's 1st Precinct, which encompasses downtown.


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