LA Fitness director subjects gunman angry at unmasked clients

A manager at the Maplewood Fitness Club tackled and disarmed a man who pointed a handgun at the manager’s chest while complaining that members were exercising without wearing face masks, prosecutors said Monday.

Michael M. Florhaug, 64, of Maplewood, was charged by Ramsey County District Court with assault with a dangerous weapon in connection with the incident approximately 30 minutes before Thursday closing time at 6 p.m. at LA Fitness on County Road D near White Bear Avenue.

Florhaug remained in jail in lieu of $ 50,000 bail before a court appearance on Tuesday. Court records do not mention a lawyer for him.

Assistant manager Mike Olson, 33, said Monday afternoon that “I kind of knew it had to be done. It didn’t take a lot of thought. It was more of a reaction.”

Olson attributed his willingness to risk his life to his four years in the military, particularly during an eight-month tour of Iraq in 2007-08.

“It was definitely more dangerous” in Baghdad than in last week’s confrontation with an angry gunman, said Olson, who left the service in 2011 with the rank of specialist and two medals of honor from the army among other praise. “We were kicking doors and doing our best in town.”

Olson boss Andrew Heitz said Olson handled the situation well. “I’m glad he’s here at the time,” Heitz said.

Maplewood Police Investigation Sgt. Joe Steiner said that while “we strongly recommend that people call the police and try not to take matters into their own hands, it seems the manager didn’t really have a choice. He felt like that people’s lives were in danger.… He did a great job. “

The criminal complaint pointed out that Florhaug had a state-issued permit in his wallet which allows him to carry a gun in public.

True to her plea, Florhaug wore a mask during times of tension in the gym, Olson said.

According to the complaint:

Florhaug complained to a front desk worker of indoor gymnasium members without a mask, as the state requires as part of the effort to control the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Olson intervened and told Florhaug, who was not an active member of the club, to leave while explaining that the gym was understaffed to enforce the mandate.

The deputy manager also told Florhaug he “was welcome to pay an employee out of his own pocket to enforce mask rules,” the complaint says. Olson said Monday that “I asked it with humor to defuse the situation.”

In response to the tongue-in-cheek suggestion, Florhaug yelled at Olson, called him stupid and said he intended to tour the club and photograph the members.

Olson raised his hands to stop Florhaug, who replied by pointing a gun at him, the complaint continued. Olson stepped back as Florhaug put the gun back in his sweatshirt pocket.

As Florhaug made his way to the front of the gymnasium, Olson tackled him from behind, picked up the weapon, and removed his ammo.

Olson “thought Florhaug was going to shoot at limbs that did not have masks,” the complaint read.

The police arrived and arrested Florhaug. He told officers he belonged to the gym but had not exercised since the start of the pandemic and came to the facility to check the mask for compliance before resuming his workouts.

Heitz, the club’s director of operations, told the Star Tribune that Florhaug visited in September and that he was “a little upset that we weren’t able to reimburse him”.

Florhaug told officers he wanted to take photos of the members in order to get into trouble at the gym for not complying with the mask’s warrant, the complaint says.

He then accused Olson of pushing and tackling him as he tried to leave.

Florhaug dismissed any concerns about endangering anyone, saying he had only “flashed the gun”.

Thinking about how the residents of his town are dealing with the pandemic, Police Sgt. Steiner recalled a physical altercation at Cub Foods a few months ago between two people fighting over not wearing a mask.

Steiner noted that “I think everyone has the same feeling that people are a little bit on edge the longer COVID lasts. “

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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