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Man who died in St. Paul was held down by Church of Scientology employees after attempted robbery, police say

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ST. PAUL — Before a 52-year-old man died, he attempted to rob a Church of Scientology employee who fought back and was joined by other workers to hold him down in downtown St. Paul, police said Tuesday, Jan. 21.

Officers found the man unconscious and not breathing Monday night , and he was pronounced dead at Regions Hospital. The cause of his death remains under investigation.

Officers were called to the parking ramp by 505 N. Wabasha St., which is the Church of Scientology, about 7 p.m. Monday. Witnesses reported the man, whose name hasn’t been released, tried to rob a 49-year-old Church of Scientology worker in an elevator lobby just before officers were called.

The man intimated to the worker he had a handgun — apparently by hiding his hand in his jacket — and demanded his valuables, said Sgt. Mike Ernster, a St. Paul police spokesman.

“A significant struggle began between the decedent and the robbery victim,” Ernster said. “During this struggle, the robbery victim called out for help repeatedly, eventually getting the attention of other church employees who came out to help him.”

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The fight may have lasted “five-plus minutes” before people heard him and responded, Ernster said. He didn’t know how many, but estimated it was five or less.

They “gained control of the robbery suspect and held him on the ground until police arrived,” Ernster said.

Officers began chest compressions and called St. Paul fire paramedics, who transported the man to Regions. A gun was not found, according to Ernster.

The 49-year-old whom the man tried to rob sustained bruising and minor cuts to his face and hands — “typical injuries from a fight” — and later sought medical attention, Ernster said.

Police brought everyone involved to headquarters, where they were interviewed and released. No one was arrested and the incident remains under investigation.

Portions of what happened were captured on surveillance cameras, Ernster said.

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