Celebrity Chef Justin Sutherland charged with threats of violence in domestic incident

The victim also told police that she had experienced ongoing verbal abuse from Sutherland and that he had broken her vehicle windshield two days earlier.

Justin Sutherland/Ramsey County Sheriff/s Office

Twin Cities celebrity chef Justin Sutherland was arrested over the weekend and is now facing a felony charge in connection with allegedly putting his hands around his girlfriend’s neck and threatening to shoot her.

Sutherland, 39, was held in jail over the weekend and was charged on Monday with one count of threats of violence.

Sutherland is known locally for his current and prior work at restaurants, including the Handsome Hog where he previously worked as head chef, and Big E, which is a breakfast shop he opened on Grand Avenue in St. Paul. Sutherland has been involved with several national television shows, including “Top Chef” and “Iron Chef America,” and won a daytime Emmy for his work on “Taste of the Culture.” Sutherland recently made headlines with his plans to open two new restaurants in downtown Minneapolis.

Charges filed in Ramsey County District Court say police were called to the address of a vacant building on the 800 block of Front Avenue in St. Paul just after 8 p.m. Friday on a report of a male with a gun and a female with her hands up who appeared to be in distress near the back door. The call came from a passerby on a walk.

A second 911 caller who claimed to be the sister of the female victim said she was FaceTiming with her sister, the victim, who said her boyfriend was trying to kill her. The 911 caller said she heard the male tell her sister, “I wish you were dead right now,” and that the male had put his hands on the victim’s neck earlier. The 911 caller then said that the male took the phone from the victim and threw it on the ground. After being unable to reach her sister after that, she called 911.

Police arrived and found the male identified as Sutherland exiting the rear of the building. An officer told Sutherland to turn away and put his hands on his head. Sutherland then screamed, “I called 911 and you trying to f–king arrest me?” Sutherland turned away from the officer but kept yelling and said, “You should just f–king kill me.” Sutherland eventually complied with the officer’s verbal commands but continued yelling racially derogatory remarks at the officer, the complaint states.

Police entered the building and found the female victim in the doorway of the bathroom, where she said she went to hide before police arrived. She told police that the two had argued because Sutherland said they were no longer going to a music festival. The victim also told police that Sutherland was angry about the neighbors being racist toward him, and that she believed he was taking his anger out on her. The victim said that when she got on the phone to her sister to explain what was happening, Sutherland walked up to her, placed both hands around her neck, and applied pressure while telling her, “I want you dead.” The victim said she kicked Sutherland off of her. Sutherland then grabbed the phone and slammed it on the counter several times, she said.

The victim then fled the building to the neighbor’s house to ask if she could use the phone, when Sutherland walked out of the building with a gun in his hand. Sutherland told her, “Don’t come back here or I am going to shoot you.” As she went back toward the house, Sutherland stood in the doorway with the gun in his hand. As she approached him, the victim said Sutherland pointed the gun at her, then hit her in the chest with the gun. The victim stated that she was afraid for her life and held her hands up while telling Sutherland, “Don’t shoot me,” the complaint says.

The complaint details that a friend of Sutherland’s showed up in the middle of the fight after receiving a text from Sutherland about having a fight with the victim. The friend told police that while on the way to Sutherland’s St. Paul address, Sutherland called the friend and was screaming about the victim and said something to the effect of, “If I need to get my guns, I will.”

The friend told police that when he arrived, he had to separate the victim and Sutherland, who were screaming at each other and trying to fight. The friend told police that Sutherland had been planning to convert the vacant building into a restaurant, and that Sutherland and the victim had moved into the building’s onsite apartment about a week earlier. He told police that the relationship between Sutherland and the victim had been “rocky.”

After the parties separated, the friend said he went to the bathroom and observed a closed handgun case on Sutherland’s bed, which he told police was unusual.

The victim first told police that the male friend had grabbed the gun from Sutherland’s hand when he arrived, and that she had screamed at the friend that Sutherland was trying to kill her, according to the complaint. She later told police that she had knocked the gun from Sutherland’s hand just before the friend arrived.

The victim also told police that she had experienced ongoing verbal abuse from Sutherland and that he had broken her vehicle windshield two days earlier.

Police also spoke with the victim’s sister over the phone who said she heard Sutherland say to the victim, “I wish I killed you when I had the chance. I wish you were dead right now.”

The criminal complaint notes that police had responded to the same location about 90 minutes prior when the same female victim had called 911 to report that her boyfriend choked her and was trying to kick her out of the apartment. Dispatch comments reflect that the victim was crying and refused to provide her boyfriend’s name because she did not want to get anyone in trouble, and that she kept disconnecting from 911. Responding officers spoke with the victim, who said she and Sutherland had a disagreement about something stupid and that Sutherland pushed her in the upper chest. The victim said she was fine and refused police assistance at that time. Sutherland corroborated the verbal disagreement and said they didn’t need police. No arrests were made upon the first police visit.

A search warrant was later executed at the address, where police located a plastic gun case sitting on top of the bed. Inside the gun case were two firearms: a Smith and Wesson M&P M2.0 and a Sig Sauer P320 9mm. While packaging the firearms, police observed what appeared to be a blood-like substance on the Sig Sauer. The complaint also said that Sutherland’s hands had blood on them when police initially made contact with him. Police recovered eight additional firearms, ammunition, and related items. Police also located and collected the victim’s broken phone.

Sutherland made his first court appearance on Monday and was subsequently released on own recognizance on zero bail. Court records show that Judge Nicole Starr issued a domestic abuse no contact order as well as a firearms order requiring Sutherland to relinquish his firearms to law enforcement. Sutherland is scheduled to next appear in court on Aug. 16.

Minnesota Crime Watch & Information publishes news, info and commentary about crime, public safety and livability issues in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota.


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Minnesota Crime Watch & Information publishes news, info and commentary about crime, public safety and livability issues in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota.