The gun that Raymond Kmetz used to wound two New Hope police officers before hw was fatally shot by other officers was illegally channeled to Kmetz by a straw buyer, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said Friday.
Kmetz, 68, of Belle Plaine, was killed Monday night at New Hope City Hall after he opened fire with a Stoeger “pistol-grip” shotgun.
Kmetz would not have been able to legally buy firearms because of a history of court-ordered civil commitments for mental health issues. He had tried to buy guns in the past, but had failed the required background checks, authorities say.
Investigators also found two other shotguns — a Mossberg 500 and a Yimeng — in Kmetz’s car in the City Hall parking lot, Stanek said. The serial numbers on all three guns had been shaved off, but Hennepin County crime lab technicians were able to restore them. They found that the guns had come from the Duluth Police Department, which had confiscated them.
In mid-July, that department sent them to K-Bid of Maple Plain, an online auction site with which it contracts. On Aug. 21, Kmetz put in a bid and bought all three guns for $675.22, Stanek said.
Federal law requires that every gun bought online be shipped to an “FFL” — a federal firearms licensee clearinghouse. The three guns were sent to an FFL in Princeton, Minn., called the Full Metal Gun Shop. A 42-year-old man from Golden Valley who was an acquaintance of Kmetz picked up the guns, Stanek said. A background check was done on him. Documentation for the gun transfer shows the names of both Kmetz and the alleged straw buyer.
Troy Buchholz, owner of the gun shop, said in a phone interview Friday night that he questioned the buyer about why Kmetz’s name was on the K-Bid auction form. The buyer told him he had used that name to protect his privacy online.
Buchholz ran a background check on the straw buyer, which came back with no problems. On the form, the buyer checked a box that said he was buying the guns for himself. He was alone, didn’t appear to have been coerced into buying the guns and paid for them, Buchholz said. Everything appeared legal.
“I’ve sold at least 30 guns over eight years to people who used a different name when they bid online for them,” Buchholz said. “I just feel sick that I sold a gun that was used in what happened in New Hope. I can’t put it into words.”
Buchholz said he’s thankful that the officers wounded by Kmetz will recover. He added his mother-in-law was a New Hope police reserve officer.
The alleged straw buyer, who has confessed to investigators that he bought the guns on Kmetz’s behalf, was arrested Thursday, Stanek said. Stanek learned Friday night that the county attorney’s office wasn’t going to file charges, but he said he has forwarded the case to the U.S. attorney’s office for review.
Stanek was told that the alleged buyer, who is going to be released from jail, didn’t violate the state statute because he didn’t know Kmetz was prohibited from owning a weapon.
The father of the alleged buyer said Friday that police questioned him about Kmetz and his son but he knew nothing. His son plowed Kmetz’s driveway and stored equipment in his garage, he said.
When the shooting was reported on television Monday, the father said, his son said to him: “I know that guy!”
He said he doesn’t believe his son knew about Kmetz’s plan and probably bought the guns for him just to make a few bucks. “It is shocking,” the father said.
A history of strife
Over the past few years, court-ordered psychological evaluations of Kmetz found that he believed individuals and government agencies were engaged in conspiracies against him. He had clashed repeatedly with authorities, particularly in New Hope and Crystal, and he had addressed the New Hope City Council several times. Kmetz’s family warned Crystal police that he had threatened to bring a shotgun to City Hall.
Kmetz had undergone years of court-ordered mental health treatment and was released from the state hospital at St. Peter in 2013 after being found incompetent to stand trial, according to court documents. A week before his release, the hospital notified the Hennepin County attorney’s office that he was no longer treatable.
The county attorney’s office then dismissed several felony charges filed against him in 2009, because his stay at the hospital was longer than a prison term he would have received if convicted.