Punk musician Zack Gontard charged in heroin overdose death

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Zack Gontard, seen left playing with the band Houseboat, faces a possible sentence of up to 25 years for selling heroin. Youtube/Hennepin County

Zack Gontard, a guitarist affiliated with numerous Minnesota-based bands, has been charged with murder for selling drugs to a man who later overdosed. 

Gontard, 38, has played with the bands Dear Landlord, Off With Their Heads, and Houseboat. He tours with Dear Landlord (which are partly based in Illinois), most recently in late 2016.

A Hennepin County Attorney's office complaint accuses Gontard of serving as the middle man in a drug deal this past May, when Gontard and a man looking to purchase heroin connected on Reddit. According to the complaint, Gontard told the man he could find and sell him four quarter-gram bags of heroin; Gontard also negotiated a "transaction fee" for his role in the deal.

A subsequent search of Gontard's phone found he'd offered to facilitate the sale of heroin "for numerous other individuals," according to the complaint. 

Surveillance video obtained later shows that on May 23, Gontard met with a third man at the Camden Tavern in north Minneapolis. Gontard and that man, Pierre Cooley, stood together outside and spoke briefly before completing an exchange. (Cooley is still at large.) 

Soon after, Gontard and the victim were seen walking together, then parting, followed by Gontard getting into a vehicle and leaving the scene. The victim is seen wearing a plaid shirt on the video, and would be found wearing the same shirt in his St. Louis Park apartment four days later, when his parents came to check on him after he had not responded to them or shown up for work. 

A medical examiner's toxicology report came back positive for heroin and fentanyl, the potent and dangerous opiate associated with numerous deaths in Minnesota, including Prince's. 

In a police interview, Gontard denied knowing both the victim and Cooley, the dealer, though he would later admit he knew Cooley, though only by the nickname "Bird." 

The charge of third-degree murder for the sale of a controlled substance comes with a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison, a $40,000 fine, or both. Aside from a criminal trespassing conviction from 2000, Gontard has no serious criminal record to speak of. 

He made his first court appearance in late August, where bail was set for $50,000. Gontard's next court date is scheduled for September 11.


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