The lead Republican in the Minnesota House of Representatives acknowledged Friday that he was involved in a gun-related dispute in Montana in September that resulted in his arrest and felony charges against a friend who was traveling with him.
According to the charges filed by the Park County district attorney in Montana, House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, 40, of Crown, along with Daniel Benjamin Weinzetl, 24, of Cambridge, had traveled to Livingston, Mont., on Sept. 7 to buy a vintage Ford Bronco.
Daudt got into an argument with the seller that escalated, the records said. While Daudt and the seller argued, Weinzetl went back and pulled Daudt’s black handgun from the car and allegedly pointed it at the seller’s “entire family, including the children,” according to court records.
Weinzetl was charged with aggravated assault, assault with a weapon and criminal endangerment, all felonies. He posted $50,000 bail two days later and was ordered to stay out of Montana with the exception of future court hearings. He pleaded not guilty to all three counts in October. Daudt, who is not named in the complaint, was not charged.
The controversy came to light following a report that aired on KSTP-TV on Thursday night.
Daudt declined to answer questions on Friday, but said in a statement that a dispute ensued because the seller “did not accurately represent the condition and mileage of the vehicle.”
“While we worked to resolve the situation, the seller became verbally aggressive with both my friend and me and became physically aggressive with my friend,” Daudt said in the statement. “I did everything I could to calm down the seller, [defuse] the situation and get my friend and me out of harm’s way. However, feeling imminently threatened, my friend retrieved a handgun, without my knowledge, from my vehicle.” Daudt said the handgun was his. He gave no indication as to whether the seller was armed.
Daudt was elected to the House in 2010 and became minority leader in 2012. Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, said Daudt called him and told him what happened shortly before the KSTP report was set to air.
“It is unfortunate — you never want to be in a position like that — but I think he handled it as well as he could,” said Davids, a senior member of the House. “He laid it all out. I trust somebody as long as there’s never a reason I can’t, and I’ve never had a reason why I couldn’t trust Kurt.”
Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover, said Friday that she first heard about what happened Thursday night. She doesn’t fault Daudt for keeping it under wraps.
“He did nothing wrong,” she said. “It’s one of those situations where you’re darned if you do and you’re darned if you don’t.”
Seller called authorities
According to charges, authorities received a call from the alleged victim, Brock Roy, who said that he sold his 1966 white Bronco to a man from Minnesota, and that when the man came to pick up the vehicle, he confronted Brock “about the way the vehicle drove.” Brock told him the sale was final and the two began arguing.
“The altercation rose to a point where a friend of the male retrieved a black handgun and pointed the gun at the entire family, including the children,” the complaint said. “Fearful for the safety of his family, Brock accelerated away from the situation in his vehicle, leaving the two males behind.”
Police, who were on the lookout for Daudt and Weinzetl, stopped them in separate vehicles. The men were handcuffed and arrested, according to the report. Daudt said in his statement that he was never accused of wrongdoing.
“As a witness, I provided a statement to local authorities who informed me that at no time was I accused by anyone of any wrongdoing, and that according to all accounts I was trying to [defuse] the situation.”
According to Minnesota court records, Weinzetl, a construction worker, has landed in trouble before.
His record shows multiple traffic offenses and he was found guilty in 2010 of assault on a police officer and obstructing the legal process, both gross misdemeanors, following a March 2010 incident in which he punched a man outside his home. When an Isanti County Sheriff’s deputy arrived at the house to speak with Weinzetl and his brother, Weinzetl shoved and punched the deputy, breaking his glasses and tearing his uniform. The deputy reported that he tried unsuccessfully to use a Taser on Weinzetl.
Weinzetl did not answer a telephone call and did not respond to a text message seeking comment.