Federal charges: Gun used in St. Paul mass shooting was suspected straw purchase

Police investigate a shooting that left one woman dead and 14 injured overnight in St. Paul.

One of the handguns used in the deadly mass shooting at the Seventh Street Truck Park in St. Paul last week came from an alleged straw buyer, according to federal charges filed Tuesday. 

The shooting occurred shortly after midnight on Oct. 10 at the bar on West Seventh Street near the Xcel Energy Center. Fifteen people were injured and one woman, identified as 27-year-old Marquisha Wiley, was killed.

According to the criminal complaint, Jerome Horton Jr. purchased the 9mm semiautomatic pistol recovered from the shooting on July 31 at Fleet Farm in Blaine. Horton allegedly purchased a total of 33 firearms over the last three months, including 24 guns from the Fleet Farms in Blaine, Brooklyn Park, Lakeville and Oakdale, along with five guns from Frontiersman Sports in St. Louis Park, and four from DKMags Inc. in New Brighton. 

"Surveillance video from these purchases indicates that in several of the purchases, other people accompanied Horton to the purchase of the firearm, which can be an indication of straw purchasing," the charges say.

Investigators also spoke with employees at one of the several stores, who said they suspected Horton of straw purchasing. An employee at Frontiersman Sports, provided still photos from each purchase as well as their own handwritten notes regarding Horton’s purchase of two guns on Sept. 29. According to the notes, Horton was "waving the gun boxes in the air to people waiting outside" as he walked back to his car, which was parked out of view of the stores surveillance cameras. 

Three people, including Horton, have now been charged in connection to the deadly shooting. In addition to the federal charges against Horton, 33-year-old Terry Brown and 29-year-old Devondre Phillips were charged in Ramsey County with multiple counts of attempted second-degree murder. Brown is also charged with attempted murder. 

Horton will make his first federal court appearance on Wednesday at 1:15 p.m.


A still photo shows Horton "waving the gun boxes in the air to people waiting outside" as he walked back to his car at Frontiersman Sports in St. Louis Park on Oct. 15.  (FOX 9)

"The majority of the firearms that are used in gun crimes and violent crimes in our communities are straw purchased," said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jon Ortiz of the St. Paul Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Ortiz wouldn't talk about the specifics of this case, but says straw purchases are a problem in Minnesota. 

"Those who utilize guns on the street don't want to be associated with that firearm per se. A lot don't qualify to purchase or possess one," he said.

These illegal buys and transfers often happen fast.

"One of the signs that we look at is how long from the time of purchase to the time it was recovered in a crime scene, how long that period is," said Ortiz.

Investigators are still working on tracing whether any other firearms purchased by Horton were used in any additional crimes.

FOX 9 reached out to all of the stores where Horton purchased guns.

The owner of DKMags Inc. in New Brighton tells us they have display posters up around their store warning people it is a federal crime to lie on background check forms when asked if they are the legal buyer of the firearm. Their staff is also trained and instructed to deny any transactions that appear suspicious, even if the suspicion occurs after a person passes a background check.

Before purchasing a gun in Minnesota, a person must obtain a state permit to purchase a handgun from a police or sheriff's department.

There's no limit to the number of guns a person can own, but any sale of two or more handguns in a five-day period from a single dealer must be reported to the ATF and local police.