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Charges: Man lied when buying gun later used by St. Paul mass shooting suspect

He's accused of making false statements during the purchase of a firearm.
Jerome Horton - Sherburne Co. Jail - CROP

Federal prosecutors say a Minnesota man illicitly bought a semiautomatic pistol later used in the mass shooting at Seventh Street Truck Park.

Jerome F. Horton of Minneapolis was charged with illegally purchasing firearms, the U.S. Attorney's Office District of Minnesota announced Wednesday. The criminal complaint lays out an alleged "straw purchase" scheme, in which Horton, when purchasing a gun, would say he was the "actual buyer" of the firearm — when in reality the weapon was for someone else. 

A "straw purchase" is often done when an individual who wants to buy a gun is barred from possessing a firearm or can't pass the required checks.

Among Horton's illegal purchases, authorities say, is a Mossberg model MC2C 9mm semiautomatic, serial number 017520MC, which he bought from the Blaine Fleet Farm on July 31.

That same gun was recovered from a vehicle just outside the St. Paul food hall and bar after the Oct. 10 shooting, which left 27-year-old Marquisha D. Wiley dead and 15 others injured, the criminal complaint states. According to the charges, one of the suspected shooters — Devondre Trevon Phillips, who is charged with a dozen counts of attempted murder — can be seen on surveillance video firing a gun, leaving the bar and entering a vehicle with the weapon still in his possession. When he gets back out of that car, he is no longer holding the gun.

Related: Murder charges in food hall mass shooting reveal details from chaotic scene

Investigators found the Mossberg 9mm in that vehicle, the charges allege.

The criminal complaint against Horton revealed Wednesday does not say how the weapon ended up with the charged St. Paul shooting suspect. But it does accuse Horton of buying 32 additional guns from June 15 through Oct. 17.

Agents digging into these purchases — which were made at a handful of retailers across the Twin Cities — found evidence they say points to straw purchases. Horton, the charges say:

  • Was sometimes accompanied by multiple other people when buying a firearm
  • In one instance, he parked outside of a surveillance camera's view
  • Made multiple gun purchases over just a few days
  • Took a phone call while at one store, and told the caller he was still inside
  • Paid cash and used small denominations
  • Can be seen on camera, after one purchase, holding up gun boxes in the parking lot, waving them in the air toward a waiting group
  • Had no firearms at the residence he listed on his purchasing forms, per an Oct. 19 search of the home

Horton, following his arrest Tuesday, denied engaging in straw purchases, though told investigators he sold seven guns to four different people, according to the charges. He also said 10-15 of the guns had been stolen, first telling agents they had been in a van that was stolen, then claiming they'd been taken after he stashed them near a St. Paul strip club, the charges state.

Horton is charged with making false statements during the purchase of a firearm, the U.S. Attorney's Office said, and made his first court appearance Wednesday.

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