BUFFALO, Minnesota: A 67-year-old Minnesota man who was unhappy with the care he'd received at area health centres in recent years opened fire at a clinic on Tuesday (Feb 9), wounding five patients, authorities said.
The attack happened Tuesday morning at an Allina clinic in Buffalo, a community of about 15,000 people roughly 64 kilometres northwest of Minneapolis. Authorities said Gregory Paul Ulrich, of Buffalo, opened fire at the facility and was arrested before noon.
Governor Tim Walz said at a news conference that “some improvised explosive devices” were part of the attack, though he didn’t say whether any were detonated. And the FBI sent bomb technicians to the scene.
While an exact motive wasn't immediately known, authorities said Ulrich has had a long history of conflict with health care clinics in the area.
“All I can say is, it’s a history that spans several years and there’s certainly a history of him being unhappy with health care ... with the health care that he’d received,” police Chief Pat Budke said during a later news conference.
Budke said Ulrich's history led investigators to believe he was targeting the clinic or someone inside, but that it was too early in the investigation to know if it was a specific doctor. He said the shooting did not appear to be a case of domestic terrorism.
“None of the information that we have from our past contact with him would indicate that he was unhappy with, or would direct his anger at, anyone other than people within the facilities where he had been treated or where they had attempted to give treatment,” Budke said.
Kelly Spratt, the president of Buffalo Hospital, said the five patients who were wounded were rushed to hospitals, but that he didn’t know any of their conditions.
Wright County Sheriff Sean Deringer said Ulrich was well-known to law enforcement before the attack.
“We have had several calls for service dating to 2003,” Deringer said.
Public online court records for Ulrich list a handful of arrests and convictions for drunken driving and possession of small amounts of marijuana from 2004 through 2014, mostly in Wright County, including two convictions for gross misdemeanour drunken driving that resulted in short jail sentences.
North Memorial Health spokeswoman Abigail Greenheck said multiple victims were brought to its hospital in Robbinsdale. She did not say how many or what condition they were in.
Members of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms' enforcement group and special agents from the state's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension also responded.
The clinic is set off at the edge of Buffalo near an old red barn with flaking paint. Dozens of emergency vehicles and law enforcement officers carrying guns were on the scene, setting up a perimeter. TV footage showed little activity at the clinic itself, but several shattered plate-glass windows could be seen. At least two windows were shattered a nearby motel.
More than three hours after the attack, law enforcement moved to cordon off a neighbourhood about a mile from the clinic. An ATF agent on the edge of the perimeter declined to talk to an AP reporter.
At least a half-dozen law enforcement vehicles were gathered near a small mobile home park near Pulaski Lake in the city. A woman from the sheriff’s office who declined to identify herself said they were executing a search warrant in connection to the clinic shooting. She declined to give any additional information.
A state Department of Public Health spokesman said he didn’t immediately know if the clinic has been administering COVID-19 vaccinations. An Allina spokesman referred all questions to the Buffalo police and the Wright County Sheriff’s Office.