5 shot at Minnesota clinic; suspect said to be angry at care

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Law enforcement personnel and first responders gather outside of the Allina Health clinic, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021, in Buffalo, Minn. Authorities say multiple people were shot at the Minnesota health clinic on Tuesday and someone was taken into custody afterward. (David Joles/Star Tribune via AP)

BUFFALO, Minn. (AP) — A 67-year-old man unhappy with the health care he’d received opened fire at a clinic Tuesday and injured five people, and bomb technicians were investigating a suspicious device left there and others at a motel where he was staying, authorities said.

All five victims were rushed to the hospital. Three remained in stable but critical condition on Tuesday evening, and a fourth had been discharged. The condition of the fifth victim was not immediately known. 

The attack happened Tuesday morning at an Allina clinic in Buffalo, a community of about 15,000 people roughly 40 miles (64 kilometers) northwest of Minneapolis. Authorities said Gregory Paul Ulrich, of Buffalo, opened fire at the facility and was arrested before noon.

Gov. Tim Walz said at an earlier news conference that “some improvised explosive devices” were part of the attack, though he didn’t say whether any were detonated.

Wright County Sheriff Sean Deringer said Ulrich was well-known to authorities 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 misdemeanor drunken driving that resulted in short jail sentences.

Though police said it was too early to tell if Ulrich had targeted a specific doctor, court records show he at one point had been ordered to have no contact with a man whose name matches that of a doctor at the clinic.

Police Chief Pat Budke became emotional and had to pause during a news conference as he told reporters “our heart breaks as a community.” While an exact motive wasn’t immediately known, Budke 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,” Budke said.

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.

NewsNation tracked down Ulrich’s brother, Richard, who learned of the shooting Tuesday evening. He revealed that after a back surgery two years ago, Gregory Ulrich had been prescribed an opioid painkiller. When Ulrich last spoke with his brother two months ago, he said the doctors had recently stopped prescribing the painkiller.

“I think people deserve to know what happened here,” Richard Ulrich told NewsNation. “I don’t know anything for sure of course but that’s my best guess, he was mad at the doctors for not giving the opioids.”

Prior to the back surgery, Ulrich had not struggled with opioids, though he did have a drinking problem, according to his brother.

North Memorial Health spokeswoman Abigail Greenheck said multiple victims were brought to its hospital in Robbinsdale.

The FBI sent bomb technicians to the scene. 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 neighborhood 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.

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