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Trial looms in Duluth barroom dispute murder trial

Aaron Demetrius Humphreys1 / 2
Eric Burns, victim of homicide2 / 2

DULUTH, Minn.—The Duluth man accused of a fatal shooting outside a Lincoln Park bar in October 2016 will head to trial next month.

Aaron Demetrius Humphreys, 43, faces an intentional second-degree murder charge in the death of 47-year-old Eric Wayne Burns, who authorities said was gunned down moments after the two men were involved in a barroom dispute.

Humphreys appeared in State District Court in Duluth on Friday for the first time in nearly six months. Attorneys in June told the court that they had been unable to reach a settlement and requested the additional time to review evidence and prepare for trial.

Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Nate Stumme and Minneapolis defense attorney Kassius Benson told 6th Judicial District Judge David Johnson that the case remained on track for a five-day jury trial scheduled to begin Jan. 22.

Johnson heard a series of routine pretrial motions at the brief hearing Friday. The judge said he would bring in a pool of potential jurors a week before the trial is set to begin to complete questionnaires that will assist attorneys in the jury selection process.

Humphreys, who remains in the St. Louis County Jail on $1 million bail, pleaded not guilty in January.

Authorities said surveillance video shows Humphreys firing a gun out the front door of the Bedrock Bar shortly after midnight on Oct. 18, 2016, striking Burns moments after the two men were involved in an altercation inside.

Burns was found lying face down in the parking lot next to the bar, according to a criminal complaint. A medical examiner indicated that the cause of death was a single gunshot wound, with the bullet entering through his chest and exiting from his back.

Witnesses reportedly told police that the dispute started between Burns and a third man, Orin Bernard Vann. Police said a bartender reported that Burns left after unsuccessfully attempting to make amends with the two men, but that he returned a few minutes later and gunfire was heard.

Police said Vann initially claimed responsibility for the shooting before the video was obtained. Vann, 54, was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and is due back in court on Feb. 7.