Investigators say gun used in Truck Park bar shooting linked to ‘straw purchase’

One of the handguns used in the mass shooting at a St. Paul bar earlier this month came from a suspected straw-purchaser, according to federal court documents filed Wednesday.

In a criminal complaint, agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) say Jerome Fletcher Horton, Jr. bought nearly three dozen handguns from stores across the metro over the past three months.

One of those handguns, a Mossberg 9 mm semiautomatic, was recovered shortly after a shooting at the Truck Bar in downtown St. Paul on Oct. 10 that killed a 27-year-old woman and left 15 others injured.

Investigators say that handgun was one of three that Horton purchased from a Fleet Farm store in Blaine on July 31. They say Horton had purchased a total of 33 firearms dating back to last June and was regularly accompanied by other people, which can be an indication of straw purchasing, according to the criminal complaint.

Jon Ortiz, Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC) with the ATF in St. Paul declined to comment specifically about Horton’s case, but says investigating straw purchasing is a priority of his agency.

"This is one of the avenues that criminals get their hands on guns," Ortiz said. "Once you buy that firearm and you hand it to whomever is paying you to buy it on their behalf… you have no control over where it ends up and often times it ends up at crime scenes where innocent people get victimized in our communities."

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Horton is charged with making a false statement while purchasing a firearm. He denied any straw purchasing when ATF agents spoke to Horton after his arrest on Tuesday, according to the criminal complaint.

Horton made his first appearance in federal court Wednesday afternoon where lawyers indicated that Horton could be released to a halfway house while he awaits trial.

This is a developing story. KSTP is working on learning additional details and will be updating this story throughout the day.