Straw buyer linked to New Hope city hall shooter pleads guilty

The man accused of acting as a straw buyer to purchase shotguns for the New Hope city hall shooter has entered a guilty plea. Michael Garant, 42, will be sentenced for making false statements to acquire guns for another person.

On Jan. 26, 68-year-old Raymond Kmetz was killed after shooting two police officers inside New Hope city hall. Kmetz's criminal history barred him from owning firearms, but Garant bought the guns for him in an online auction.

Following the guns

Three guns were found by tracing the serial numbers, which had all been filed off but recovered by applying a chemical mixture that revealed the digits. The guns were traced to the Duluth Police Department, where they were stored last July as part of a criminal investigation. The guns were later sold to an online auction business called K-Bid.

According to the charges, on Aug. 21, 2014, Ray Kmetz was the highest bidder for three shotguns in a K-Bid auction, but the auction house was required to transfer the guns to a licensed firearms dealer who would then do the necessary background checks. The guns were then transferred to Full Metal Gun Shop in Princeton, Minn., where they were picked up by Garant on Aug. 23, 2014.

Garant told the gun shop's owner that he used the alias "Ray Kmetz" during the online auction to hide his true identity.

The background check

A National Instant Criminal Background Check was performed on Garant, and was returned "clear." One of the forms completed by Garant as part of the background check contained the following question:

Are you the actual transferee/buyer of the firearm(s) listed on this form? Warning: You are not the actual buyer if you are acquiring the firearm(s) on behalf of another person. If you are not the actual buyer, the dealer cannot transfer the firearm(s) to you.

Garant responded "yes" to this question by checking the corresponding box. He paid $659.29 in cash for the three shotguns, one of which was a Stoeger Model 2000 12-gauge shotgun bearing serial number 915191 – the same gun used in the New Hope City Hall shooting.

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