There was an incident in Central Minnesota two days ago that still has me jangled. A man entered a courthouse with a concealed gun and sat down at the back of a room where the County Commissioners’ board meeting was being held. He sat through the entire meeting and when the Commissioners were about to adjourn, he said something to the effect of, “There’s one more order of business to attend to.” Then he pulled out his gun and took people hostage. He allowed a few people to leave, telling them to contact a state television studio, and one of them promptly went to the Sheriff’s office, which is within the same complex. The Sheriff, a SWAT team and several other officers were on the scene immediately and evacuated the courthouse. The man with the gun pointed it at the County Administrator and at one of the County Commissioners. He was told to drop the weapon, but refused, and then pointed it at the officers. Three of the officers, including the Sheriff, shot the man, who was pronounced dead at the hospital.
I have been in this courthouse. I have been in this particular room. It is a small room, with space for the Commissioners’ table, plus about twenty chairs for audience members. It is a miracle that no one else was shot. I have heard that the officers had instructed the hostages to lower themselves to the ground and crawl out of the room.
I know some of the people who were in that room being held hostage. When a friend of mine called to inform me of the incident after having been escorted out of a different area of the courthouse by three armed SWAT members, my knees almost buckled and I found it hard to breathe. I continue to tense up when I think about this horrifying situation.
There are people who are siding with the armed man, saying that the County Commissioners had done him wrong and pushed him over the edge. The man had a history of flaunting the law and then litigating when the County Board didn’t allow him to do what he wanted. Some are speculating that his gun wasn’t loaded. Minnesota Public Radio just reported that his gun was indeed loaded, with one bullet already in the chamber. He had a second gun and handcuffs on him, too. And to think that he sat calmly through an entire County Board meeting, waiting to make his move.