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Sheriff says don't 'push blame' in Buffalo shooting except to the suspect

Gregory Ulrich was charged Thursday with seven crimes in connection to Tuesday's fatal mass shooting in Buffalo.
Wright County Sheriff Sean Deringer

Wright County Sheriff Sean Deringer

The investigation into the fatal mass shooting at the Allina Health clinic in Buffalo, Minnesota, continues, with investigators trying to determine how a man who had made prior threats toward the clinic got a gun.

Gregory Ulrich, 67, of Buffalo, was charged Thursday with second-degree murder in the death of 37-year-old medical assistant Lindsay Overbay and four counts of attempted murder in the shootings of four other Allina Health employees, as well as explosives and weapons charges in connection to the fatal mass shooting at the Crossroads Clinic in Buffalo on Tuesday..

Related: Suspected Buffalo shooter had made previous threat of 'mass violence' toward Allina clinics

Ulrich previously made threats of "mass violence," including killing employees and setting off bombs at the Allina clinic, prompting a harassment restraining order (HRO) being filed against him in 2018 that prevented him from going near the Crossroads Clinic and Buffalo Hospital.

These prior threats have raised questions about how Ulrich was able to walk into the Crossroads Clinic and shoot five people.

The Wright County Attorney Brian Lutes, Wright County Sheriff Sean Deringer and Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Superintendent Drew Evans spoke to this during a news conference Thursday.

"While I know we have previously threats made by Mr. Ulrich, I also want you to know there has been nothing recent in the past several months or even a year that we would have been aware of where we would have taken immediate action to try to circumvent or prevent what happened Tuesday morning," Deringer said. 

He urged people not to "push blame" as investigators are working to "give closure and justice to those who have been victimized," but if you have to "push blame," to blame the Ulrich. 

Deringer said law enforcement deals with people every day who say "many things in anger," and "we do our best to try to mitigate what those threats constitute and what that looks like," noting mental health continues to be a serious issue in the area. 

How'd he get a gun?

Deringer said his office worked with the county attorney's office to get a court order that would give them the authorization to release gun permit records related to Ulrich, but it was denied.

This prevents officials from being able to say if Ulrich has ever even applied for a permit or whether they have any records for him because gun permit data is private under state law. 

The sheriff explained how someone like Ulrich may acquire a gun, saying human error and error in reading criminal histories to find what would disqualify someone from being able to get a gun permit are the most likely scenarios. 

People could also get guns illegally, buying them as they would drugs on the street, he added.

Deringer noted that the harassment restraining order (HRO), which was filed against Ulrich in 2018, would not always disqualify someone from getting a permit.

State law says if they meet a certain threshold the sheriff's office "shall" issue a gun permit, so sometimes their hands are tied. He did note that there is someone in Wright County who has applied for a gun permit and doesn't have disqualifiers, but the sheriff's office has denied a permit – the sheriff just have to be prepared to defend himself in court if he gets sued for denying the permit. 

Evans said part of their team's investigation is to determine how Ulrich came to have a gun, noting some answers could come "ultimately at the end of the day."

The investigation continues

Investigators have completed their search warrants at the Super 8 Motel and 143 Pulaski Park, both in Buffalo, and have released those scenes. Meanwhile, investigators are wrapping up their investigation at the Allina clinic and could release that scene sometime today. 

During the news conference, officials clarified some details that were in the criminal complaint after their investigation late last night revealed there three improvised explosive devices went off in the clinic (two in the lobby area and one in a nearby hallway/work station) and a fourth device that was not detonated, Deringer explained.

Related: Murder, explosives charges for Gregory Ulrich in Buffalo clinic mass shooting

When asked about the amount of ammunition Ulrich had with him and whether he intended to harm more people, Deringer speculated that staff at the clinic fled and barricaded themselves offices, so he "may have run out of victims," noting Ulrich did end up calling 911 himself and turned himself in in the lobby of the clinic.

Related: Allina Health confirms 5 employees were victims of attack at Buffalo clinic

It's unclear how many people were still inside the clinic when Ulrich surrendered, with Deringer noting that's part of their ongoing investigation, which involves 50 local, state and federal investigators.

Ulrich's bail was set at $10 million without conditions and he was assigned a public defender. His next court appearance is on March 22. 

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