BUFFALO, Minn. – Five people were injured and a suspect was in custody Tuesday after a shooting at a health clinic in Buffalo, Minnesota, officials said.
The shooting happened late Tuesday morning at the Allina Health clinic in the city about 40 miles northwest of Minneapolis.
Buffalo Police Chief Pat Budke said the department received a call of shots fired just before 11 a.m. local time. City and county officers arrived to find several people injured, as well as the suspect, and the officers tried to help, Budke said.
“There is no information at this point that leads us to believe that there is any nexus with any type of domestic terrorism,” Budke said, pausing to hold back tears. “We are very familiar with the suspect.”
Five people were taken to area hospitals, said Kelly Spratt, president of Allina Health Buffalo. Four were ultimately taken to North Memorial Hospital and one to Hennepin County Medical Center. Two had initially been taken to Buffalo Hospital, he said.
“At this point, I do not have the most up-to-date information on the patients’ conditions,” Spratt said.
Officers also found a suspicious package in a corner of the lobby and evacuated the facility, Wright County Sheriff Sean Deringer said.
Deringer identified the suspect as Gregory Paul Ulrich, 67, of Buffalo. Officers have received “several calls” pertaining to Ulrich dating back to 2003, Deringer said.
The suspect acted alone and appeared to intentionally target the facility or someone at the facility, Budke said. The suspect had been treated at the facility in the past, he said, but there was “nothing to indicate that we would have been in the situation that we are in today.”
Ulrich had been staying at a Super 8 motel less than 3 miles from the clinic, Deringer said. Officers found additional suspicious devices at the hotel, Deringer said.
Earlier, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said “some improvised explosive devices” were related to the incident. Budke later saidthere may have been an explosion inside the facility before police arrived, but he did not elaborate.
Budke did not say how many shots were fired.
Wright County County Attorney Brian Lutes said he expects Ulrich to appear in court Thursday morning. “Prior to that I will file a detailed complaint that spells out all the details that are not yet available due to the early stages of this investigation,” Lutes said.
Court records indicate Ulrich was convicted several times of driving while intoxicated and possessing small amounts of marijuana, including two convictions for gross misdemeanor drunken driving that resulted in short jail sentences. In 2018, he was arrested in Buffalo on the charge of violation of a harassment restraining order, according to court records.
By early afternoon, several county and local police and fire vehicles were in front of the clinic, and a Minneapolis Police Bomb Squad truck was set up in front of the building’s main entrance. The road south of the clinic, about a mile south of Buffalo Hospital, was closed to traffic.
Minnesota State Patrol pilots were flying boxes of blood from the Red Cross to Buffalo Hospital for victims of the shooting, the agency said on Twitter.
Schools in the area were placed on lockdown as a precautionary measure, the sheriff’s office said.
The Super 8 hotel and Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, which ownsthe Super 8hotel chain, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Doug Abbott, 60, of Loretto, Minnesota, said he had an 11:35 a.m. appointment at the clinic to check his blood pressure. The entrance was blocked off, so he parked in a nearby strip mall lot, where he learned of online reports of a shooter.
A nurse then called to cancel his appointment because of an “incident,” he said.
“She said, ‘We’re in a lockdown’ and I told her I was praying for them,” he said. “Had (my appointment) been a half-hour earlier, I could have been one of the witnesses – hopefully not dead.”
“This doesn’t happen in Buffalo Minnesota, but we’ve got to be there for people who are needing us,” Buffalo Mayor Teri Lachermeier said Tuesday afternoon.
Buffalo is a community of about 16,500 people, according to 2020 Census estimates.
Lachermeier called on residents to check in on one another during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s a stressful time. Reach out. Check on people,” she said. “Bottom line, it’s mental health that we’re suffering from, and we have to make sure that we’re taking care of those people that are in need of our help.”
Allina Health, a nonprofit health system based in Minneapolis, owns or operates 12 hospitals and more than 90 clinics in Minnesota and Wisconsin, according to the company’s website.
A state Department of Public Health spokesman told The Associated Press he didn’t immediately know whether the clinic has been administering COVID-19 vaccinations.
U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., who represents Buffalo, said on Twitter that he and his staff were monitoring the situation.
Minnesota Rep. Marion O’Neill said the incident was an “unimaginable tragedy.”
“My friends, my children and grandchildren live and work in Buffalo and while we do not yet know who the injured are, we are all connected. My heart breaks for these victims, their families and our community,” O’Neill said.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said on Twitter that the “tragic shooting” happened not far from where she grew up.
“So sad for all those there at clinic and those injured and praying for their recovery. Thanks to those saving lives right now. Gun violence must stop,” she wrote on Twitter.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., said on Twitter that she was “devastated” by the news of the incident.
“My thoughts are with all the victims and their families right now,” she wrote.
Contributing: Anna Haecherl, St. Cloud Times; The Associated Press