Bardwell faces assault charges

by Nathan Warner
Contributing writer

Mark Bardwell of Zimmerman was held in South Dakota on charges of simple and aggravated assault after he pulled a knife and attacked patrons at an AmericInn bar in Stanley County on Nov. 12.

Bardwell was wrestled to the ground by four patrons including South Dakota House Majority Leader David Lust, House Speaker Val Rausch and Rep. Brian Gosch, who were in town raising money for the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Sheriff Brad Rathbun of Stanley County said 41-year-old Bardwell had already been at the bar for several hours when he began acting erratically around 11 p.m., according to police reports.

Rausch said Bardwell just flipped out. “For whatever reason, he thought we were somebody we weren’t — a biker gang or something,” he said.

“He just kind of kept bothering the patrons,” Rathbun said. Several patrons reported Bardwell saying strange things to them, such as, “The three sons are coming, so be prepared.” Bardwell next sat beside state Rep. Kristin Conzet and pulled a knife.

After Lust confronted him about the knife, Bardwell put it back in its sheath and tried to punch Rausch. “I dodged it,” Rausch said. After that, Lust says, “The melee was on — myself and several others tackled him and held him down until the police arrived.” The bartender had left a few minutes earlier to find someone to call 911. “Meanwhile,” Gosch added, “all hell is breaking loose in the bar.” Rausch said Bardwell was strong and it took all four of them to pin him down. Not everyone escaped the ordeal unscathed, however. Gosch received a bloody hand when he was cut preventing Bardwell from pulling the knife out of its sheath. “If he’d have gotten the knife out of the sheath when we had him up against the wall, it would have gotten really bad,” Gosch added.

Bardwell was scheduled for his first court appearance last week.