Man threatens to kill judge in courthouse
A 39-year-old man was being held in the St. Louis County Jail on Wednesday night after threatening to kill an unnamed state district court judge, himself and others, leading to the lockdown of the county courthouse.
The man, whose birthday was Wednesday, made the threats about 3:10 p.m. in the reception area of the St. Louis County Attorney's Office on the fifth floor of the courthouse.
Duluth police public information officer Brad Wick said the county attorney's office provided a description of the man, who was carrying a canvas shoulder bag. No weapon was seen but he told witnesses what his name was and that he was going to shoot people, including a judge.
Wick said the courthouse was locked down while court security officers conducted a sweep of the building. Two men who matched the description of the defendant were briefly detained before being released.
Duluth police checked with Arrowhead Regional Corrections and found out where the suspect was living. Squads responded to the residence and found the man inside. He was taken into custody without incident. A search warrant was obtained to enter the residence. No firearm was found.
Witnesses from the county attorney's office were shown photographs of the man and identified him as the person who made the threats. He was taken into custody on a preliminary charge of terroristic threats.
Wick said the suspect admitted to being at the courthouse, but when police attempted to interview him further he requested an attorney.
"Our court security staff was on the spot, clearing the hallway and checking for the individual,'' St. Louis County Undersheriff Dave Phillips said of the incident, which was over in about 15 minutes. "Duluth police responded very quickly and did an excellent job of locating the individual; therefore it was de-escalated faster. We're really happy how smoothly things went.''
According to court records, the suspect was committed as mentally ill in November 2006 until a court order discharging the commitment was issued six months later. The man has a conviction in St. Louis County District Court in Hibbing for being in possession of a pistol without a permit. He has two convictions in Itasca County for trespass and for invasion of privacy. The man was granted a divorce in 2007.
St. Louis County Attorney Melanie Ford didn't hear or see the threats, but was pleased with the response by law enforcement. "Obviously, it's disturbing, but it seems like the police and sheriff's office all took immediate action to ensure the safety of our employees,'' Ford said.