Man walks into an Idaho bar... points rifle, patrons pummel him and police arrest him

Martin Knowles
Martin Knowles

Patrons at the Roadhouse Saloon in Idaho Falls disarmed and injured a man who reportedly returned after a dispute and pointed a rifle at the crowd.

Martin Knowles, 58, had been kicked out of the bar earlier Tuesday night for arguing with a patron. He returned about less than an hour later armed with an AM-15 .223-caliber rifle and a .40-caliber pistol.

Some quick thinking by Trevor Bennion allowed him to disarm Knowles. Bennion told the Post Register on Wednesday that Knowles, a man he had never met, had walked by him at the bar and kicked his broken ankle. Bennion said he had injured his ankle when a steel beam fell on his foot and he was wearing a boot cast.

Bennion said he confronted Knowles and told him he would fight him if he was kicked again.

Court records back up Bennion’s version of events. Records show the bartender ordered Knowles removed from the bar and told him not to return.

About 45 minutes after Knowles was kicked out, he returned armed with a rifle and pistol.

Michael Martinez, Bennion’s friend, said Knowles re-entered the bar and immediately leveled the rifle at the crowd.

“He flung the door open and jacked in a shell and started pointing this rifle at my buddy’s wife and then swung it at another friend,” Martinez said.

Idaho Falls Police reviewed surveillance footage from inside the bar which reportedly shows Knowles point the rifle at the patrons.

Bennion said that he entered “fight-or-flight” mode when he saw the weapon. He grabbed a beer mug and threw it at Knowles. That distracted Knowles, he said, allowing him to rush the armed man and get the rifle away from him.

“He was distracted long enough that he didn’t get a round off, thank God,” Bennion said.

Bennion and several others then began to punch Knowles.

Police arrived a short time later and found Knowles lying near the front door of the bar with blood all over his face. Court records show Knowles was taken to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, where he received six stitches and was diagnosed with a broken nose.

Responding officers wrote in their reports that the crowd at the bar was screaming, and several people were being held back from further attacking Knowles. Officers got Knowles away from the crowd so he could be treated for his injuries.

He later told officers he had been drinking and left after the confrontation with Bennion. He told officers when he returned he never pointed the gun at the patrons, contrary to video evidence. Knowles told officers he didn’t think he stepped on Bennion’s foot.

Knowles told officers he returned to the bar to talk to Bennion and brought the weapons to protect himself. The handgun that was found was also loaded and had a round in the chamber, court records show.

In a phone interview, Bennion said he doesn’t feel shaken by the incident.

“Surprisingly, I really don’t feel anything,” he said. “I’m just glad no one was shot; I mean I’ve got a 3-year-old little girl and a wife and I’d hate to leave them and be shot over some drunk idiot.”

Bennion said police did not confront him or his friends about punching Knowles.

“You know, cops can get a bad rap, but they were really good and handled the business last night very professionally,” Bennion said.

Knowles is charged with aggravated assault, unlawful possession of a weapon by a convicted felon and an enhancement for use of a deadly weapon in the commission of a felony. Aggravated assault and unlawful possession of a firearm are each punishable by up to five years in prison. The deadly weapon enhancement increases the maximum punishment by up to 15 years.

In 2002, Knowles was convicted of possession of a controlled substance in Oneida County, barring him from owning a firearm, court records show.