Sheriff says heroes averted worse courthouse shooting

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 19, 2011 4:48 AM
Sheriff says heroes averted worse courthouse shooting

By David Bailey

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - A man found guilty of a sex crime left a Minnesota courthouse shortly after the verdict was read, returned with a handgun and shot a prosecutor and witness in a chaotic struggle, authorities said on Friday.

Authorities provided more details of the shooting that happened on Thursday afternoon in Grand Marais, Minnesota, a city of about 1,400 residents on the north shore of Lake Superior near Canada, about 110 miles northeast of Duluth.

"There were a lot of heroes who really averted something much much more serious," Cook County Sheriff Mark Falk told a news conference.

A bailiff, the shooter's mother, a sheriff's deputy and a state trooper all struggled with the man to prevent more violence, Falk said.

Charges were expected to be filed Monday against Daniel Schlienz, 42, for the shooting of Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell and potential witness Greg Thompson, and injuries to Deputy Gary Radloff, a court bailiff, Falk said.

The bizarre attack came after Schlienz told his lawyer John Lillie and mother he needed to take a break from a post trial meeting in a conference room. He retrieved a handgun from his vehicle and returned to confront Scannell in his office at the courthouse, Falk said.

As Schlienz neared the door of the Cook County Attorney's office, Thompson opened it from the inside, Falk said. Thompson had been subpoenaed, but did not testify in the trial.

Schlienz shot Thompson, 53, in the leg and proceeded into the office to shoot Scannell, 45, Falk said. Schlienz returned to the hallway and shot Thompson again before resuming his attack on Scannell in the county attorney's office, Falk said.

Scannell, who was shot twice in the abdomen and once in the groin, was listed in fair condition on Friday after surgery at Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center in Duluth, hospital spokeswoman Beth Johnson said. Thompson was listed in good condition at the hospital, Johnson said.

Radloff was treated for minor injuries at a local hospital. He had not been shot as initially reported by authorities on Thursday.

The shooting erupted as Judge Mark Munger was talking with jurors after they found Schlienz guilty of criminal sexual conduct for having sex with a 16-year-old girl. Radloff, 70, cleared the judge and jurors from the courtroom and headed to Scannell's office, Falk said.

Lillie said Friday he had assumed Schlienz was taking a break to clear his head and thought his client may have gotten into a fight when he heard a bang and muffled shouts.

After another bang, Lillie realized it was gunfire. He opened the conference room door and saw Schlienz heading into the county attorney's office and Radloff leaving the courtroom, Lillie said.

"Mom and I are screaming at Dan. He goes into the county attorney's office at the same time someone is screaming downstairs that 'I've been shot, I've been hit, I'm hurt'," Lillie said.

Lillie said he found a wounded man on the stairs and helped him out of the courthouse and found Scannell lying on the floor outside his office when he returned, propping up the prosecutor who was struggling to breath until a first responder arrived and began treating him.

Schlienz had been on conditional or pretrial release during the trial and was not taken into custody immediately after the verdict. He was being held in the county jail after the shooting pending charges, Falk said.

The Cook County Courthouse does not have metal detectors. It remained closed on Friday as the investigation continued.

(Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Greg McCune)