EAU CLAIRE — A Stanley man has the opportunity to avoid a felony conviction for firing a gun during a struggle with two men after a night of drinking in downtown Eau Claire.
Elijah R.J. Ryba, 21, pleaded guilty recently in Eau Claire County Court to a felony count of second-degree recklessly endangering safety and no contest to a misdemeanor count of possession of a firearm while intoxicated.
Ryba was fined $443 for the misdemeanor charge.
As part of a two-year deferred agreement with prosecutors, the felony charge will be dismissed if Ryba pays another $250 fine, commits no new crimes, performs 40 hours of community service, has no contact with the victims and doesn’t drink alcohol or enter taverns.
Ryba must also complete an alcohol and drug assessment, and cannot buy, possess or carry a firearm unless approved by court officials.
According to the criminal complaint:
At about 1:22 a.m. Friday, July 3, Eau Claire police officers had disbursed a bar fight in a Galloway Street tavern when they heard a loud bang come from a nearby parking lot.
Two men told officers that they had confronted another man who was yelling at a woman alongside a car when a handgun was drawn and a shot fired into the ground.
A bystander told an officer that Ryba was the person with the gun. The officer ordered Ryba to put his hands up, but the Stanley man reached into his car, handling something in the glove box. Eventually Ryba put his hands up and was secured by officers. Police later found a 9 mm handgun in the glove box.
Ryba initially claimed one of the men arguing with him grabbed the gun out of the car during the fight, but later admitted to picking up the gun himself. A round must have gotten chambered during the struggle with the two men, and Ryba fired the shot into the ground, he told police.
When an officer examined the gun, an empty casing was in the chamber — indicating a bullet had been fired — and the magazine contained live rounds.
Officers noted a strong odor of alcohol emanating from Ryba and a breathalyzer test showed he had a 0.216 blood alcohol level — more than double the 0.08 legal limit for driving.