Charges: Security trainer pepper-sprayed man with autism for sampling cookies

The 20-year-old was trying a cookie sample at a Cub Foods in Roseville.

Authorities say a man with autism who was eating a cookie at a Twin Cities Cub Foods store was pepper-sprayed in the face.

The man now accused in the spraying, 53-year-old Tim Knutsen, is certified in the use of chemical sprays and was a director of training with one of Minnesota's largest security companies.

According to the charges filed recently, Knutsen – who was in the Cub in Roseville as a customer – believed the 20-year-old was taking cookies that were not free to customers.

According to the criminal complaint:

The man with autism, who is from Roseville, was in the bakery at the Cub Foods on Larpenteur Avenue March 4, eating a cookie, when Knutsen – who was also shopping at Cub – noticed him.

Knutsen did not think the cookies were free and complained to the service desk, who told him there was nothing they could do because they hadn't seen it happen.

After checking out at the register, the victim returned to the bakery and was followed by Knutsen, who confronted him. As the man turned around, Knutsen sprayed him in the face with chemical spray. He left the store as the man yelled in pain.

Police found the 20-year-old sitting on the floor, with officers learning he has autism and was eating a cookie he believed he was taking from a free sample tray.

Knutsen contacted police two days later, telling officers he didn't know the man had autism and believed he was instead on drugs. He admitted that the victim didn't do anything threatening to him, saying he only turned around abruptly when Knutsen said "Hey."

He told police it was "stupid" but wanted to tell the 20-year-old to "knock it off" and took his spray out as a precaution.

The Pioneer Press reports Knutsen, of St. Paul, has been fired from his job with American Security. The company described Knutesen's alleged behavior as "deplorable" and said it will reinforce its training to "reflect our policy of de-escalation." The paper also said the cookie came from a sampler tray.

Knutsen is charged with fifth-degree assault and disorderly conduct. He's expected in court May 11.

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