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Suspect in shooting of Minnesota officers and medic had violent past, lost right to own guns

Zach Osterberg, of the Savage Fire Department, was overwhelmed with emotion and hugged his son Lincoln Osterberg as they paid their respect on three memorials in front of the Burnsville Police Department in Burnsville, Minnesota, on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024. (Elizabeth Flores/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

The man suspected of fatally shooting two Burnsville police officers and a Fire Department medic had a previous criminal conviction and accusations of violent outbursts against two women with whom he shared children, and was barred for life from owning firearms.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner confirmed Monday that Shannon Cortez Gooden, 38, was the suspect in the killing of three emergency responders inside a Burnsville home early Sunday. Authorities say he then took his own life. The deaths of the officers and medic prompted an outpouring of grief from law enforcement and Minnesotans alike, the latest in a string of violence toward first responders in the region in recent months.

A health care professional weeps on a paramedic vehicle that has become one of three memorials in front of the Burnsville Police Department in Burnsville, Minnesota, on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024. (Elizabeth Flores/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

Along with officers Paul Elmstrand and Matthew Ruge, both 27, and firefighter/paramedic Adam Finseth, 40, Gooden is accused of wounding 38-year-old Sgt. Adam Medlicott. Officials said Monday that Medlicott was treated at HCMC and is now recovering at home.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office disclosed Monday that Elmstrand, Ruge and Finseth were all declared dead from homicide at HCMC between 6:33 a.m. and 6:46 a.m. on Sunday. Ruge was shot in the chest. Multiple gunshots hit Elmstrand, and Finseth was shot in the right arm and torso, the examiner’s office said.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) is leading the investigation. Ashlee Sherrill, a spokesperson for the St. Paul division of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), said the agency is working closely with law enforcement in Minnesota.

“Due to this being an active investigation, we are limited what we can share to the public and we will defer to BCA as they lead this investigation,” Sherrill said. No other details were immediately available about the exact sequence of events inside the home early Sunday; neighbors reported hearing gunfire a little after 5 a.m. on Sunday, several hours into the standoff.

Najib Ahmed he placed flowers on the police vehicle in front of the Burnsville Police Department. (Elizabeth Flores/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

In February 2008, Gooden was convicted of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon stemming from an incident months earlier when he brandished a knife and threw rocks at his victim during a fight in a Burnsville shopping center parking lot.

Court records show that Gooden’s assault conviction was eventually reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor because Gooden abided by the terms of probation. The order restored his right to vote, but he was barred for life from owning firearms.

In August 2020, Gooden petitioned the court in vain to regain his right to own a gun. He explained that he wanted to protect himself and his family, according to court records.

At the time, Gooden pointed out to the court that he has not been convicted of any further serious crimes, had taken anger management and parenting classes, advanced his education, maintained steady employment in the auto repair business for many years “and provided for his long-term girlfriend, her two children and his five children.”

Members of the Eden Prairie Police Department pay their respect on three memorials in front of the Burnsville Police Department in Burnsville, Minnesota, on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024. (Elizabeth Flores/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

The Dakota County Attorney’s Office countered that along with the assault conviction, Gooden “had additional encounters with police involving assaults, disorderly conduct and numerous traffic violations demonstrating a continued disregard to obey that law.”

The County Attorney’s Office also pointed to two orders for protection filed against him by women he shared children with. One of the women told the court that on Oct. 30, 2017, Gooden gave her a concussion and a black eye with a head-butt, and also threw her down the stairs.

The other woman said in her petition that on July 7, 2020, Gooden grabbed a knife while the two argued “and cut her clothes and swiped her foot,” sending the woman down the stairs. At times, the woman continued, he would pull her hair, throw her against the wall and “even let family members assault [her].”

Neither woman successfully obtained an order for protection. In the 2017 filing, the woman failed to appear for a hearing. A judge dismissed the second petition for lack of evidence.

St. Paul Police Officer Anthony Buckley places a badge on a police vehicle that has become one of three memorials in front of the Burnsville Police Department in Burnsville, Minnesota, on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024. (Elizabeth Flores/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

One of the women, believed to have been living with Gooden at the time of Sunday’s shooting, declined to speak with the Star Tribune. Gooden’s family also declined comment.

Jeremiah Hatley submitted a letter to the court in support of Gooden’s effort to regain the right to own a gun. Hatley said he had known Gooden for roughly 15 years, describing him as “a man I have grown to call my brother.”

Hatley told the Star Tribune on Monday that he and Gooden stayed in touch nearly every day. He called him “a good man and had a good career painting vehicles. … My brother took care of his kids.”

On emergency dispatch audio during the standoff, an officer can be heard referencing Gooden by his first name, and noting that he’s “being charged second-degree CSC [criminal sexual conduct], 911 interference.”

Hatley was adamant that any accusation of sexual misconduct against Gooden would be proved false, and that “there are a thousand people who will attest to that.”

It is not clear how Gooden acquired the gun he allegedly used Sunday, given he was barred from owning weapons. Rob Doar, senior vice president of government affairs for the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, said that while Gooden was under probation, police could search for firearms on his person or property based on “reasonable suspicion at any time” instead of the higher bar of proving probable cause to a judge.

Once Gooden’s probation ended, police would have needed need additional evidence linking him to illegal gun possession, or to have happened upon him in possession of a gun during a traffic stop or other interaction.

James Densley, a criminal justice professor at Metro State University and co-founder of the Violence Project, said that the estimated nearly 400 million firearms circulating in the United States pose numerous opportunities for guns to “wind up in the hands of people that shouldn’t have them.”

The ATF recently raised concerns about guns being stolen from lawful owners, manufacturers or licensed dealers around the country. People who are prohibited from buying firearms can also turn to legal buyers to purchase the weapons on their behalf, a practice commonly referred to as “straw purchasing.”

Some may lie about their prohibited status and slip through the cracks if the background check process fails to flag them. Insufficient documentation of past crimes or dishonorable military discharges may also allow otherwise prohibited persons from circumventing background processes.

The frequency of armed interactions between law enforcement and civilians nationwide, Densley said, also underlies still simmering tensions in police-community relations.

“When they get called to a domestic violence situation, or when they get called to a traffic stop or whatever it is that they’re doing, there’s always the chance that that person is armed and it raises the stakes for all those interactions,” Densley said. “This is an example that really highlights that … here we’ve got a situation where there’s tons of good guys with guns, and it’s the good guys that are getting shot.”


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