HASTINGS, Minn. - Posting bail Thursday night, 49-year-old Thomas Tonda left the Dakota County Jail charged with one count of making terroristic threats and another count of assault after he allegedly put a youth hockey coach in a choke hold.
While he didn't want to talk about what happened, Tonda described it as a misunderstanding.
"I can't say nothing. You'll have to talk to my attorney," he said.
Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom describes it differently.
"This is extremely disturbing behavior," said Backstrom. "He basically went after the coach verbally and our complaint alleges he put [the coach] in a choke hold and as he left the arena, [Tonda] threatened to kill him."
Backstrom says it all happened during practice in early December at the Inver Grove Heights West Ice Rink. The practice was made up of 12-year-old boys from South St. Paul and Inver Grove Heights.
Investigators allege Tonda's son got into a fight with an opposing player, using his hockey stick as a baseball bat. That's when witnesses say the coach broke the fight up and scolded both players.
Tonda allegedly took offense, screamed at the coach and put him in a choke hold to the point the coach started to black out.
Witnesses who were at the rink that night identify the coach as Terry Johnson.
"Parents need to celebrate their kids' involvement and support them and support the coaches who are volunteering their time," said Backstrom.
Hockey parents who frequent the ice rink wonder how it got to this point.
"Hopefully we can learn from that and turn it into a positive situation," said Mike Busch. "Hopefully this guy gets some help."
Backstrom says Tonda was already on probation for a drug charge from 2009 and graduated in May from the Dakota County drug court program.
He'll make his next court appearance in March where he could face up to five years behind bars.
"It's a sad deal all around," Tonda said. "I don't want to talk about it."
Backstrom says this is the third time he's filed charges like this in the last 18 months. The most recent was this month when an Eagan father allegedly punched his own son after a basketball game.
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