Paul Koscielski told two women who had locked their keys in their car that the Eden Prairie police would open the car for free, but they insisted on calling a locksmith because they were in a hurry. Within an hour the locksmith who showed up to assist the women was under arrest for stabbing a clerk at a Bloomington gas station December 7.
Koscielski, who manages the Holiday gas station off Valley View Road in Eden Prairie, continued to go about his normal routine after speaking with the women around 9 a.m. last Wednesday. Then two detectives from the Bloomington police department showed up.
Bloomington police received a tip the night before that the stabbing suspect pictured in security camera footage released last week had been spotted at that Eden Prairie Holiday, so the two detectives drove out there to follow up.
"I didn't recognize the guy from the picture the detective was showing me on his phone, but he mentioned the guy had a locksmith jacket on," said Koscielski. "I pointed out to the locksmith working on the girl's car and said 'that might be your guy right there.'"
"[The detective] looked at his phone, looked at this guy, and his face just lit up."
The detectives called Eden Prairie police for backup and arrested Merritt without incident at about 9:45 a.m.
"We get two or three lockouts per year, and to have this happen when the detectives are here, I mean the coincidence is unbelievable to me," said Koscielski. "These [detectives] were just dumbfounded this guy could just fall into their lap."
Bloomington Deputy Chief of Police Rick Hart downplayed the coincidence, pointing out the police had already been notified that Merritt frequented the Eden Prairie Holiday.
"I don't know, actually, how much of a coincidence it was. We had a tipster who called in and said he saw this guy at this gas station the evening before," he said.
Merritt was originally booked on a second-degree assault charge, but Hart said the Hennepin County attorney may upgrade the charge to attempted murder.
Police say Merritt stabbed a 22-year-old employee in the upper torso at a BP gas station in Bloomington. The stabbing came after an Merritt got into an argument with another customer; robbery was not the motive.
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