Suspect charged in killing of Cottage Grove High School teacher

Message outside Frigaard's Bar
Messages hang outside Frigaard's Bar in memory of owner and high school teacher David Frigaar who was shot to death early Saturday.
Andy Rathbun / St. Paul Pioneer Press via AP

Updated: Jan. 27, 2:50 p.m. | Posted: Jan. 26, 6:30 p.m.

A Pine Springs, Minn., man has been charged with the shooting death of a Washington County bar owner and high school teacher this weekend. The suspect's lawyer called the shooting "unintentional" and said the suspect likely doesn't remember the shooting.

Bailey Garcia, 19, was arrested early Saturday morning after he was found in an SUV that had crashed in Mahtomedi. Police found a rifle and a spent round in the vehicle.

Authorities later found David Frigaard, 46, shot to death nearby, slumped in his running vehicle.

The complaint against Garcia said he admitted to shooting the .30-06 rifle at a truck, in the same area where Frigaard was found dead, shot in the chest after pulling up to a stop sign in his truck about 3:30 a.m.

Investigators don't know yet why Bailey Garcia allegedly fired from his SUV into Frigaard's vehicle nearby, Washington County Attorney Pete Orput said.

"Right now we need further investigation to determine whether there is any tie between these two that might suggest that there was intent here," he said. "We haven't come up with it yet."

Garcia initially told investigators he was parked near the intersection and was shooting "a few deer" in the area, then later said he aimed his rifle at the truck and fired, the complaint said.

Garcia said he got scared because he didn't know if he had hit the driver, so he fled the area, according to sheriff's investigators. He was arrested after crashing his SUV.

Sheriff's deputies said the license plates were covered by white paper towels and a rifle with an attached scope and ammunition were found in the front passenger seat. More ammunition and a near-empty bottle of rum were found in the vehicle later, according to the complaint.

Garcia said he had gotten into an argument with his father and brother and wanted to kill himself, investigators said. He retrieved a rifle and box of ammunition from his bedroom closet, went to the Mahtomedi Fire Department where he had recently gotten a job, and got a cutting tool to remove the trigger lock attached to his rifle.

Attorney Ryan Pacyga, who was hired by Garcia's family, said in a press conference on Tuesday that they're not denying that Garcia shot and killed Frigaard. But he said it appears that Garcia doesn't remember the incident.

"Mr. Garcia did not understand what occurred at the time of the incident," Pacyga said. "He's having a hard time getting over the fact or idea that he's responsible for somebody's death."

Garcia has been diagnosed with depression and anxiety in the past, and has had a prior suicide attempt, according to Pacyga. Garcia's attorneys said they'll ask the court to conduct a Rule 20 mental health evaluation, which will determine whether he's competent to stand trial.

Frigaard's Bar in Willernie
The staff and customers at Frigaard's Bar are "like a little family," said patron Tierney May of Mahtomedi, Minn.
Andy Rathbun / St. Paul Pioneer Press via AP

Pacyga also said Garcia had not been kicked out of the bar owned by Frigaard, as some media sources reported earlier. He said Garcia didn't know Frigaard personally.

Garcia is being held on $2 million bond and is scheduled to be back in court on Feb. 5.

Frigaard taught art at Park High School in Cottage Grove, and had been with the South Washington County School District for about 15 years. He also helped coach track, football and basketball.

Park High School Principal Kerry Timmerman said Frigaard was a teacher who engaged his students in making and appreciating art.

"As an art teacher, obviously it really lends itself to being hands on, but Dave was really passionate, so he did that in a variety of different ways and really brought out the best in his students," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Before you go...

MPR News is dedicated to bringing you clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives when we need it most. We rely on your help to do this. Your donation has the power to keep MPR News strong and accessible to all during this crisis and beyond.