ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - When security officer Brent Ahlers told St. Paul Police he had been shot by a man he encountered in a wooded area at St. Catherine University on Tuesday night, it prompted a campus-wide lockdown and a manhunt for the suspect.
Now, the former security guard is being criticized for who he said committed the crime.
"The main concern was I had a couple of young brothers stop me yesterday and say, 'aren't you going to say something about them falsely accusing black men,'" said African American Leadership Council President Tyrone Terrill.
Ahlers originally told officers the man who shot him was black, with a short afro, and a navy blue sweatshirt. He later admitted he made up the story because he had accidently shot himself with his own gun and was worried he would lose his job.
A police spokesperson says the description wasn't released to the public because investigators had doubts about Ahlers' story. But it did go out over police radio to the 50 or so officers who were searching for what turned out to be a fictional suspect.
"You had over 50 officers, canines, St. Kate's on lockdown. The neighborhood on lockdown looking for this black man who shot a white man," said Terrill. "So you have police at the most intense level. So it's only by the grace of God you didn't have something tragic happen."
Terrill says his organization as well as the St. Paul NAACP and The Black Ministerial Alliance know of at least three men who were stopped and searched during the manhunt before eventually being let go.
He believes Ahlers said the suspect was black because he thought it would lend credibility to his made up account.
"That he, based on the climate in America, knew they would buy into race. Not Latino. Not Asian. Not white. Not Native American. Black," Terrill said.
In a statement, St. Catherine officials apologized for the impact the event has had on the entire community saying in part, "What happened over these past few days perpetuates a dangerous stereotype and echoes our country's tragic and continuing history of racism. No one can ever afford to rest in the pursuit of justice and fairness in our society."
But community leaders say they still want to meet with the school's president so this can become a teachable moment for everyone.