New Hope City Hall shooter had someone else buy guns

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Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek on Friday said Raymond Kmetz, the 68-year-old man who opened fire on police officers at New Hope City Hall, actually brought three shotguns with him. He had one with him inside city hall, and two stashed in his car.

So, how did a man with a history of mental illness manage to get these weapons? The sheriff says Kmetz went through what's known as a "straw buyer."

The three guns were found by tracing the serial numbers, which had all been filed off. But by applying a chemical mixture, investigators were able to bring those serial numbers back out.

The guns were traced to the Duluth Police Department, where they were stored last July. The guns had been confiscated from a criminal case and later ended up in the hands of an online auction business called K-Bid. Raymond Kmetz purchased the weapons from K-Bid, but the auction house was required to transfer the guns to a licensed firearms dealer who would then do the necessary background checks.

K-Bid gave the guns to the Full Metal Gun Shop in Princeton, Minn. Kmetz then had another man buy those weapons for him.

Charges dropped against alleged straw buyer

Stanek held a press conference announcing the arrest of the straw buyer Friday night -- but hours later they said charges against him were dropped. He was identified as Michael Garant of Golden Valley, Minn.

"The evidence provided by law enforcement was insufficient to bring felony charges under state law, so justice required he be released," the Hennepin County Attorney's Office said.

According to law enforcement sources, Stanek knew Garant wasn't going to be held on the charges, so when he said it was in the County Attorney's hands Friday it was a little disingenuous. The problem with the case apparently has to do with the specific way the gun statute is written in Minnesota.

Getting his guns back

Months before the New Hope City Hall shooting, the sheriff's office returned four shotguns to the family of Raymond Kmetz

The Sheriff's Office said none of the weapons returned to the Kmetz family were used in the New Hope City Hall shooting.

Kmetz told people he had a gun in every room of his house, and when they raided his old house in October of 2009, they found he wasn't exaggerating. Investigators discovered a small arsenal of four shotguns, four rifles, two handguns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

A few days earlier, Kmetz had called up a county prosecutors to say he "had a gun" and was on his way to the Hennepin County Government Center, and if a shooting started, "he was not the only one going down."

Ten, last August, five years after all those weapons were seized, two family members, who had power of attorney for Kmetz, asked the Hennepin County sheriff's officer for those weapons back. Remarkably, they were returned.

The legal issue here is interesting and a little tricky. Under the law, Kmetz can't possess a gun because of his mental health history. But he still has property rights to that gun, meaning he still has the right to sell it, or give it away.

According to the Hennepin County attorney's office, they advised the sheriff's office, "there was no legal reason not to give the guns to the two family members." So, prosecutors drafted a statement for the family to sign, which said they could be held "criminally and civilly liable," if they gave the weapons to Raymond Kmetz.