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‘I didn’t want to shoot her in the head...just…scare her,’ ex-husband testifies

John Bruce Steurer (Courtesy of Anoka County Sheriff)

With the left side of his face disfigured from gunshot wounds, John Steurer told a jury why he shot his ex-wife last November before turning the gun on himself during a standoff with police.

“It wasn’t like I was going to shoot her, shoot her. … I didn’t want to shoot her in the head or anything,” Steurer testified in a Ramsey County District courtroom. “She has two kids, a granddaughter. … I just wanted to scare her.”

Steurer, 48, took the stand in his own defense Wednesday in the third day of his trial. The Anoka man is charged with trying to kill his ex-wife on Nov. 23 last year when he showed up at her work in North St. Paul and shot her with a 20-gauge shotgun as she fled from him.

She suffered wounds to her arm and left side but survived.

He maintains that he meant only to hurt the woman, not kill her.

The incident took place months after Steurer’s then-wife of 23 years had served him with divorce papers. She testified in court earlier this week that Steurer was cruel and controlling during their marriage and occasionally violent. She had an order for protection against him when he showed up at her work last November.

He also recently had found out that she was seeing another man.

The woman maintains that Steurer’s gun jammed after he hit her with the first shot and that he proceeded to chase her onto the loading dock area, where he then struck her repeatedly in the head with the butt of the gun and punched her.

She also testified that Steurer continuously tried to point the gun at her face to shoot her again, but that she wrestled it away.

She escaped when Steurer became distracted, and she locked him out of the building, she testified. Police arrested him hours later in a Coon Rapids park after Steurer shot himself.

Steurer disputed the woman’s account Wednesday. He testified that he fled Anchor Mold and Tool, where his ex-wife works, immediately after he shot her.

“My gun was loaded. If I wanted to shoot her again I would have,” Steurer said during cross-examination.

His defense attorney, Thomas Donohue, asked him to recall for the jury the phone conversation he had with his mother shortly after he shot his ex-wife as further proof of his true intentions.

He was en route to the Coon Rapids park when he placed the call.

“I told her that I wasn’t there to kill the wife … I just wanted to make her feel bad for what she did to me,” Steurer said. “I told her I shot her in the shoulder or the arm and that was it.”

State prosecutor Rachel Kraker attempted to expose problems with that narrative while questioning Steurer’s mother, Kathryn Steurer, during Wednesday’s proceeding.

Kathryn Steurer testified that she’d called police worried about her former daughter-in-law as well as her son. Steurer had called her to say he’d shot his ex-wife and next planned to kill himself.

Though she testified that she told detectives that her son had shot his ex-wife in the arm because he’d only meant to hurt her, Kraker played audio of the woman’s 911 call, which suggests otherwise.

“My son just called me and said he went to my ex-daughter-in-law’s work and … shot her in the back of the head. … He said he couldn’t take it anymore, so he went to her work and shot her,” the woman said in the call, which was played in court.

On redirect from Donohue, Kathryn Steurer explained that she had been under great distress when she placed the call and that’s probably why she said he’d shot her in the back of the head.

She added that she now remembers only her son telling her she’d shot his ex-wife in the side to hurt her.

The trial will resume Thursday.