Photo: Wright County Jail.
Photo: Wright County Jail.
Updated: February 12, 2021 06:13 PM
Created: February 12, 2021 03:39 PM
The man charged with shooting five people inside a health clinic in Buffalo this week had legally obtained the handgun despite his documented mental illness, a law enforcement source has confirmed to 5 INVESTIGATES.
Police say Gregory Ulrich walked into the Allina Health Clinic on Tuesday morning, pulled out a Smith and Wesson 9mm and fired off 11 shots, wounding four people and killing another — Lindsay Overbay.
The 67-year old man is charged with murder, attempted murder and setting off explosive devices. He is also charged with not having a permit to carry a pistol in public.
During a press conference on Thursday, investigators said they cannot comment on whether Ulrich was allowed to legally own a firearm because of privacy laws.
However, a former roommate said he believed Ulrich had obtained a permit to purchase the firearm from the Buffalo Police Department.
"Weeks later, he has a brand new Smith and Wesson that he bought," Raymond Zandstra said.
A law enforcement source confirmed Ulrich was, in fact, granted a permit to purchase by the department.
5 INVESTIGATES has also learned that the department may not have had a choice, even though police knew Ulrich could be a danger to the public.
Police said Ulrich had threatened to kill people at the clinic back in 2018, leading to a restraining order.
Ulrich was then charged with violating that order, but Buffalo City Attorney Scott Baumgartner dismissed the charge last year after Ulrich underwent a psychological evaluation and was found mentally incompetent, according to court records.
That should have prevented him from ever legally owning a firearm, under state law.
However, a court spokesperson confirmed that since the city attorney dismissed the case instead of a judge, Ulrich’s mental incompetence does not show up in most court records.
In a phone interview on Friday, Baumgartner said he was obligated to dismiss the case since it was only a misdemeanor charge.
"I believed I was following the rule," he said.
The dismissal created a potential loophole that could have forced police to issue Ulrich a permit to legally purchase a firearm even though he had been found mentally incompetent.
Minnesota is what’s known as a "shall issue" state, meaning police must issue a permit to purchase a firearm to someone who is not flagged as being ineligible. Police cannot use their own discretion to deny a permit application, even if they know someone is a risk to themselves or the public.
Baumgartner, who was only involved in Ulrich's previous criminal case for a few weeks after being retained as city attorney in April 2020, said he is not involved in civil matters such as whether or not someone can legally own a firearm.
"I have nothing to do with the flagging of anything," he said. "I don’t play in that arena. I just handle the criminal cases and do what I'm supposed to do under criminal rules."
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