April 22nd, 2024

Woman’s ‘illegal buying spree’ armed killer of 3 Minnesota first responders, prosecutor says

By Steve Karnowski, The Associated Press on March 14, 2024.

FILE - Portraits of Burnsville police officers Paul Elmstrand, 27, firefighter-paramedic Adam Finseth, 40, and officer Matthew Ruge, 27, left to right, are on display before a live stream of the memorial service for the three men at Prince of Peace in Burnsville, Minn., on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024. Minnesota's U.S. Attorney will provided an update, Thursday, March 14, on last month's fatal shooting of two police officers and a firefighter-paramedic who went to their aid.(Alex Kormann/Star Tribune via AP)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – A woman’s “illegal buying spree” armed a man with the high-powered firearms that he used to kill three Minnesota first responders during a standoff at a home where seven children were inside, federal authorities said Thursday.

The guns bought by Ashley Anne Dyrdahl included three AR-style semiautomatic rifles, including one with a device that doubles the rate of gunfire, and two semiautomatic pistols, court documents said. In addition, investigators found “a stockpile of fully loaded magazines as well as boxes with hundreds of additional rounds of ammunition” in the bedroom Dyrdahl and gunman Shannon Gooden shared, the indictment said.

Ashley Anne Dyrdahl, 35, of Burnsville, conspired with Gooden to illegally supply him with guns even though she knew that he was a convicted felon who could not legally possess them, U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger said at a news conference.

Luger, who described the woman as Gooden’s “long-time live-in partner,” said her “illegal buying spree for Gooden demonstrates a reprehensible disregard for public safety and the law, and the consequences of this disregard for public safety are beyond comprehension.”

Dyrdahl was indicted on one count of conspiracy and five counts of making false statements during the purchase of a firearm. Luger said the charges carry maximum potential penalties of 15 years in prison.

She will make her first appearance in federal court Thursday afternoon, but was not in custody and prosecutors didn’t plan to ask that she be jailed. The chief federal defender for Minnesota, Katherian Roe, said Dyrdahl would get a duty attorney at her first appearance, but that her office probably wouldn’t decide about representing her for future proceedings until Friday. A phone number listed in Dyrdahl’s name is no longer in service. A message was left with a man believed to be her father.

Police Officers Paul Elmstrand and Matthew Ruge, both 27, and firefighter-paramedic Adam Finseth, 40, were slain during the Feb. 18 standoff in the Minneapolis suburb of Burnsville. Their memorial service two weeks ago drew thousands of law enforcement officers, firefighters and paramedics. Sgt. Adam Medlicott, 38, survived being shot while tending to the wounded.

Investigators say Gooden, 38, opened fire without warning after lengthy negotiations, then later killed himself.

Luger said Dyrdahl bought five weapons from two licensed dealers for Gooden, including those that killed the three first responders. The weapons included AR-style rifles and Glock semiautomatic pistols. One of the rifles had a “binary” trigger, which doubled its rate of fire.

The indictment alleges she repeatedly visited gun stores at Gooden’s direction and bought or picked up the specific guns he wanted between September and January, including the two AR-style rifles used in the shootings. The indictment says she signed forms that falsely attested that she was not planning to transfer the guns to a felon.

Court records show Gooden wasn’t legally allowed to have guns because of his 2007 felony assault conviction, and that he had been entangled in a yearslong dispute over his three oldest children. The children in the house were ages 2 to 15 years.

According to the indictment, Dyrdahl cautioned Gooden in a text message about the illegal purchases, “We just gotta make sure we’re smart about all this ya know?”

In a second exchange last September, she asked him how he liked the new Glock 47 9mm semiautomatic pistol she had just bought him.

“He responded by sending her a video in which he loaded the Glock 47 with an extended magazine,” Luger said. “She responded with a smiling heart emoji.”

As evidence that Dyrdahl knew that Gooden could not legally possess firearms, Luger and others pointed to a letter she wrote on his behalf when he unsuccessfully petitioned a court to have his gun rights restored in 2020. She had said family “is everything” to Gooden and he hoped to protect his home, but it was the children who needed protection, Dakota County Attorney Kathryn Keena said.

“Ms. Dyrdahl is the reason why he had an arsenal of firearms in his possession that ultimately resulted in the murder of three of Dakota County’s finest, and the injury of another, as they selflessly acted to protect those children,” Keena said.

Many details on precisely what happened and why remain unclear. Drew Evans, superintendent of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is leading the investigation, said full details on the case will be released after the investigation is complete.

Police were dispatched to Gooden’s home around 1:50 a.m., according to the bureau. Gooden refused to leave but said he was unarmed and that he had children inside. Officers entered and negotiated with him for about 3 1/2 hours to try to persuade him to surrender. But just before 5:30 a.m., the bureau said, Gooden opened fire on officers inside without warning.

Elmstrand, Ruge and Medlicott are believed to have been first shot inside the home, the bureau said. Medlicott and another officer, who was not injured, returned fire from inside the home, wounding Gooden in the leg.

Ruge and Medlicott were shot a second time as officers made their way to an armored vehicle in the driveway, according to the bureau. Finseth, who was assigned to the SWAT team, was shot while trying to aid the officers, it said. Elmstrand, Ruge and Finseth were pronounced dead at a hospital.

Gooden fired more than 100 rounds before killing himself, the bureau said. A court document filed by a bureau agent said the initial 911 call was about a “sexual assault allegation” but did not provide details.

John McConkey, a Burnsville gun store owner, told reporters late last month that part of one of the firearms found at the scene was traced to his store and had been bought by a purchaser who passed the background check and took possession of it Jan. 5. He said authorities told him that the individual who picked it up was under investigation for committing a felony straw purchase, and that Gooden was not there at the time. The indictment alleges that Dyrdahl actually bought or picked up four of the five guns there.

Gooden’s ex-girlfriend, Noemi Torres, disclosed this week that she had testified before a federal grand jury that was investigating the case. She told The Associated Press on Wednesday that she was asked about her relationship with Gooden and whether he could have coerced her into buying him a gun. She said she told the grand jury that she would not have done so because “I was scared for my life” because of their history of domestic abuse.

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