A Minnesota man allegedly angered by a lack of masks worn by exercisers at an LA Fitness pulled out a handgun before he was quickly subdued by the facility’s assistant manager, who credits his reaction with the four years he spent in the Army.
Michael Florhaug was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon and remained behind bars on Tuesday in connection with the confrontation inside the Maplewood gym, the Star Tribune reported.
The 64-year-old suspect allegedly pulled out a firearm on Thursday and pointed it at Mike Olson, a 33-year-old assistant manager at the LA Fitness center, just before closing time. Prosecutors on Monday said he was expressing frustrations at the time over exercisers who were not wearing masks, required in the statewide effort to battle back the spread of the contagious coronavirus.
Olson at the time told Florhaug, who was not an active club member, that the gym lacked the staffing required to ensure the safety standard was followed. He also told the man he “was welcome to pay an employee out of his own pocket to enforce the mask rules,” according to the complaint.
The assistant manager told the Tribune Monday that he “asked it in a humorous way to defuse the situation,” but it sparked a nearly-violent reaction from Florhaug. He also allegedly threatened to photograph the club members before putting the weapon back in his sweatshirt pocket and making his way toward the door.
According to the complaint, Olson “thought Florhaug was going to shoot members who didn’t have masks on,” and tackled him to the ground.
“I just kind of knew that it had to be done. It didn’t take much thinking. It was more of a reaction,” he said, citing his time serving in Baghdad for his quick reaction. He spent four years in the Army, including an eight-month tour in Iraq in 2007-08.
Florhaug, who was arrested on the scene, told authorities he was a member at the LA Fitness center but had not worked out since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. He wanted to check out the gym and whether it had been complying with state safety regulations.
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