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Knockout in St. Cloud: 1 punch leads to death, grief, and 7 years in prison

Travis Allen Johnson is going to prison for seven years for punching a guy in the head.

Travis Allen Johnson is going to prison for seven years for punching a guy in the head. Stearns County Jail

Sometime between the night of August 4 and the morning of August 5, 2017, Travis Johnson bumped into Anthony Shriver on the streets of St. Cloud. Both were young men in their early 20s. Both were out with their friends.

By the next day, one of them would be going to jail, and the other would be dead.

Shriver was walking home with his friends when he met Johnson and his crew. A short verbal fight ensued and later diffused, somewhat.

Johnson decided that wasn’t the end for him. He had been drinking, and he’d had a bit of a “controlled substance” that day, according to court records. But he doesn’t claim to have been so drunk or stoned that he didn’t know what he was doing.

At half-past 2 a.m., he caught up to Shriver on the corner of Seventh and Ninth Street. He remembers Shriver’s back being to him, remembers him turning to see who was coming. He remembers socking Shriver on the right side of his head.

It was revenge, he admitted to the judge at his plea hearing last week. Pure and simple. He was trying to hurt Shriver over the scuffle earlier that night.

But he didn’t expect Shriver to die.

St. Cloud police officers arrived on the scene and found an achy and confused Shriver. His head hurt, he told them, but he didn’t think he needed medical attention. In fact, he didn’t remember getting punched. Witnesses had to tell the police what happened and give them Johnson’s description.

That was the end of it until half-past noon that day, when Shriver was found unresponsive. He was pronounced dead a little after 1 p.m. The autopsy confirmed the cause of death as a fractured temporal bone caused by trauma on his right side.

Johnson was arrested a short while later.

Letter after letter was sent to Stearns County’s district court asking for mercy on Johnson’s behalf. His former coach at St. Francis High School wrote about how relatively nonaggressive he’d been on the football field. His little brother, Hayden, told a story about the time Travis stopped a fellow student from putting Hayden into a chokehold. His father’s partner described the tattoo he got as “a remembrance of the day when everything changed.”

Johnson pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree manslaughter last Friday. He was sentenced to 86 months in prison.