Authorities in Buffalo, Minnesota said a man was in custody after a shooting at a health clinic outside Minneapolis, killing one person and wounding four others.
The shooting caused a wave of panic among residents of the close-knit community, who were devastated that healthcare workers – already trapped over 11 months of the pandemic – were now facing violence at work. By midday, the suspect was in custody, a man with a history of grievances that authorities said they had known for years.
“It hurts to see the violence that has happened today in Buffalo at a place Minnesota people are going to heal,” Minnesota Governor Tim Falls wrote on Twitter.
The shooting occurred at the Alena Clinic crossroads in Buffalo, a city of about 16,000 residents 40 miles northwest of Minneapolis. The clinic provides health checks, childhood vaccinations, and primary care, among other services, according to its website.
Just before 11 a.m., police officers responded to a call that the clinic had been shot. Sheriff Shawn Deringer of Wright County told a news conference that the officers who arrived found several people injured and began trying to help. He said that officers had found a “suspicious package” in a corner of the clinic’s lobby, and that a bomb squad from Minneapolis had arrived to inspect the package. The officials said it was not clear if the explosives had detonated.
Kelly Spratt, head of Allina Health Buffalo, said five victims were hospitalized. He declined to say whether the victims were patients in the clinic or staff members. Hennepin Healthcare spokeswoman Christine Hill said Tuesday evening that the victim, who was taken to the group hospital in Minneapolis, had died. Three patients remained in critical condition in another hospital, and one was released.
At the press conference, the sheriff announced that the suspected gunman was Gregory B. Ulrich, 67.
Mr. Ulrich was charged with assault in the first degree and was being held at Wright County Jail, according to Captain Pat O’Malley, who oversees the prison. He said that more accusations are expected. It was not possible to reach any representative of Mr. Ulrich.
Authorities said Mr Ulrich was recently living in the Super 8 Hotel in Buffalo, which police evacuated and searched after the shooting. They found many suspicious devices in the hotel, but they refused to go into details.
Police said they have had many contacts with Mr. Ulrich dating back to 2003, Chief Pat Budke of the Buffalo Police Department indicated that Mr. Ulrich had been treated in Buffalo asylums and may have been targeting someone there. “It was most likely that this incident targeted that facility or people inside that facility,” said Budke President, who had to stop several times at the press conference because he was overwhelmed by emotion. He said that medical facilities in the area treated Mr. Ulrich or “tried to provide treatment”.
In an interview, Mr. Ulrich’s younger brother Richard said that Gregory Ulrich had back surgery about two years ago, after which he became dependent on opioids and was often frustrated when doctors refused to prescribe them.
The brother said they last spoke about two months ago.
“It looked like he was angry at the doctors,” said Richard Ulrich, who lives in Florida. “He would call me once in a while, but that’s usually what he was talking about, that he was angry at the doctors for not giving him opioids and that they had to open the gates on opioids. It just didn’t make sense to me.”
Richard Ulrich said that his brother had worked in construction for several years and may have had his back while working, although he believed his brother had not worked for long.
“He didn’t look like the same person I knew,” said Richard Ulrich of his brother after surgery. “I think the opioids have gotten to him.”
Dirk Foster, a former Church Council Chair at the Zion Lutheran Church in Buffalo, described Mr. Ulrich as “some kind of well-known entity in our small town.” He recalls an incident that occurred in the summer of 2019, when the church learned of a disturbing letter written by Mr. Ulrich preventing him from entering the church grounds.
He also said that the person who goes to church works as a doctor in the clinic, but that he was not there at the time of the shooting.
The fact that the suspect was a man who had already been known to deal with a long list of his personal grievances was not a small-town reassurance.
“I couldn’t believe that a community like Buffalo is so interconnected that you’d see something like this happen,” said Don Muhlenborg, 71, a pastor who has for several years worked with several clinic staff at a different center. Clinic in Buffalo. While he was not sure what triggered the shooting, he said tensions prevailed