Courthouse gunman went after prosecutor
Moments after a jury found him guilty on a sex charge, a former boxer retrieved a loaded gun from his car, marched back into a small courthouse in a remote northern Minnesota town and shot the prosecutor and a witness in his case, leaving both men bloodied and screaming for help.
Daniel Schlienz, 42, of Grand Marais, was held Friday in the shootings and could be charged Monday, said Cook County Sheriff Mark Falk. Both victims, including County Attorney Tim Scannell, survived but remained hospitalized.
The shooting happened about 4:15 p.m. Thursday, after a jury convicted Schlienz on one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a victim under 16 and acquitted him on another criminal sex count. Schlienz wasn't taken into custody, and Falk said there was no indication he might do something violent.
Schlienz went into a conference room with his mother and attorney to talk about what would happen next.
After a few minutes, Schlienz "just kind of got up and left," said defense attorney John Lillie III. Then Lillie heard a loud bang, followed by muffled yelling. After a second shot rang out, Lillie knew he was hearing gunfire.
"It was like a bad movie," he said. "I open the conference room door and see my client with a gun in his hand, running into the county attorney's office, and someone screaming he had been shot."
Schlienz had been headed to Scannell's office when a witness in the case, Greg Thompson, 53, of Grand Marais, came out. Schlienz shot Thompson, then went into the prosecutor's office and shot Scannell, Falk said. Schlienz then went back into the hall and shot Thompson again, he said.
Lillie rushed to Thompson, while a bailiff and Schlienz's mother went after Schlienz.
Thompson was at the bottom of the stairs in the two-story courthouse but had been shot in the leg and was having trouble walking, Lillie said. The attorney put his arm around Thompson and dragged him outside. Lillie approached a waiting car and banged on the window, then put Thompson in the back seat and told the driver to call 911. Then he went back inside and heard someone else screaming, "I've been shot. I need help!"
That's when he saw Scannell, slumped at the top of the stairway and bleeding badly. Lillie said it looked as if Scannell had been shot in the leg, so he took Scannell's belt and cinched it around his leg.
"I didn't know what to do," Lillie said. "There was just blood. ... He kept saying 'It hurts. Call an ambulance. I can't breathe.'"
At one point, Lillie said, Scannell, 45, of Grand Marais, told him to tell his wife he loved her.
"I kept telling him, 'You're fine. An ambulance is on the way,'" Lillie said. He said Scannell kept trying to lie down and was fighting to keep his eyes open. "I didn't even know how to help him. ... He's obviously in bad shape. There's blood on the floor, there's blood on him all over."
Lillie said he wasn't sure why he went back toward danger once he was safe, but "I just got this bad feeling in my stomach like if I don't go out there and help, I'm going to regret it."
Falk said Lillie "was very critical in probably saving the life of our county attorney."
But there were other heroes too, including Schlienz's mother, a bailiff and the assistant county attorney, who all struggled to subdue Schlienz. Bailiff Deputy Gary Radloff, 70, of Grand Marais, was injured in the struggle but not shot. Falk said Radloff fired his weapon once in the struggle.
Scannell was in fair condition Friday, recovering from two gunshot wounds in the abdomen and one in the groin, said Beth Johnson, spokeswoman for Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center in Duluth. Thompson was in good condition and also had three gunshot wounds, two in the leg and one in the groin, she said.
Online court records listed several cases involving Schlienz in the past two decades, but most were minor traffic violations. More serious charges included fleeing a peace officer and the sexual conduct case, stemming from a 2005 incident.
The case had gone on for years. Schlienz agreed to a plea deal calling for him to serve no more than four months in jail, but instead was sentenced to a year. Schlienz appealed but still served that year. Then the state Court of Appeals said Schlienz should have been allowed to withdraw his plea once the district court disregarded the agreement, so he got another trial.
Lillie, who was not Schlienz's original attorney, said Scannell was the original prosecutor and the one who worked out the deal — but the judge gave Schlienz the stiffer sentence.
Schlienz's father, Gary, told the Duluth News Tribune his son was down and out and "hated the prosecuting attorney that did this."
But Falk said there is no one to blame but Schlienz.
"He made a poor decision and a very costly decision that could've cost somebody's life," he said.
Grand Marais, home to about 1,300 residents, is about 110 miles northeast of Duluth and sits along the shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota's far northeastern tip. The county courthouse has one courtroom and no metal detectors. Visitors usually aren't searched when they enter the building.
Jim Franklin, executive director of the Minnesota Sheriffs' Association, said that setup is typical in Minnesota — where many courthouses are historic buildings and adding metal detectors would be expensive.
Falk said incidents like this are extremely rare, but the county would review its courthouse security policy to see if changes needed to be made.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.