6 arrested after water balloon attack on pedal pub riders

Updated: 5:30 p.m. | Posted 8 a.m.

Six people are facing potential criminal penalties in a series of water attacks on three pedal pubs in Minneapolis, including one that carried six off-duty police officers.

PedalPub Twin Cities manager Lisa Staplin said the first two "Mad Max"-style attacks Saturday evening involved bicyclists who sprayed a driver and passengers with high-powered water guns and threw water balloons at them. She said the pilot of the first pedal pub was momentarily blinded by the blast.

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"They stopped her in the middle of the street, they blasted her directly in the face and they got a couple of other people, and this is all happening in the street," Staplin said.

But the third attack on the slow-moving, people-powered, 16-seat vehicles was foiled when passengers saw the approaching cyclists and held them until Minneapolis police arrived. Burnsville Police Chief Eric Gieske confirmed that six of his off-duty officers were onboard. He said he has asked the Minneapolis Police Department for a full investigation.

The police report shows the suspects were booked on suspicion of offenses including terroristic threats, fifth-degree assault and disorderly conduct. All were freed after posting $78 bail. They're scheduled to make their first court appearances June 4.

Kurtis Johnson, 31, of Inver Grove Heights told MPR News he was one of the men squirting at the pedal pub passengers. He says the off-duty officers used excessive force.

"If you can't take a joke and think that there's something more to it than just water, I mean, you've got to take a big look at your life if you think we're out to try to hurt people. We were just having fun," Johnson said.

Staplin said her business checks social media for potential threats and got wind of plans for the attacks Saturday morning via the Facebook page "I hate the Pedal Pub." She said the posts later disappeared and they hoped the threat would blow over. But they warned their pilots to remain alert.

On Sunday, the "I Hate PedalPubs" page had a fresh posting that said, "I have received a few messages that some people have pursued pedal pubs today with squirt guns and water balloons. Wrong idea guys. Although getting wet is mostly harmless, it is still considered assault."

While nobody was injured, Staplin said the attackers created a potentially dangerous situation.

"We were lucky enough it was water but it could have been bleach, gasoline, urine," said Zach Howland, a driver who had 16 customers on board at the time of the incident. "There's no need to put our clients and our drivers in harm's way."

MPR News reporter Elizabeth Baier contributed reporting to this story.