Gun shop owner says Burnsville suspect purchased rifle through straw buyer

Burnsville Shooting Incident
Law enforcement officers from various agencies set up a security perimeter following a police-involved shooting incident in Burnsville on Feb. 18.
Tim Evans for MPR News

The owner of a Burnsville gun shop said Tuesday that a firearm connected to the deaths of two police officers and a paramedic last week has been traced to his store, and appears to have been obtained by a straw buyer.

Officers Matthew Ruge and Paul Elmstrand, both 27, and firefighter-paramedic Adam Finseth, 40, were killed Feb. 18 while responding to a domestic violence call involving a man who had barricaded himself in a house along with seven children between 2-15 years old.

A public memorial for the three first responders is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Grace Church in Eden Prairie.  

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said last week that Shannon Gooden, 38, fired more than 100 rifle rounds at first responders during the standoff. A judge prohibited Gooden from possessing firearms following a felony assault conviction.

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John McConkey, who owns The Modern Sportsman, told MPR News in an email that an out-of-state online retailer shipped an AR-15 lower receiver, the federally regulated part of the gun, to his Burnsville store for transfer to a local buyer.

McConkey said the person who passed the FBI background check and picked up the weapon on January 15 was not the alleged shooter.

“The Modern Sportsman had no way of knowing the lower receiver would end up in a convicted felon’s / prohibited person’s possession,” McConkey said in a statement.  “The prohibited person was not there during the transfer process nor was his name on any of the enclosed documents.”

McConkey added that his staff is cooperating with a BCA investigation into the suspected straw purchase.

A BCA spokesperson told MPR News that she could not share any additional details about the investigation.

It’s unclear if the allegedly straw-purchased weapon was used to kill the officers and paramedic. The BCA said in a statement last week that crime scene personnel “recovered several firearms and a large amount of ammunition at the scene.”

Straw gun purchasing was part of the investigation into the 2021 mass shooting at the Truck Park bar in St. Paul in which Marquisha Wiley, 27, was killed and more than a dozen others were injured in an exchange of gunfire between Devondre Phillips and Terry Lorenzo Brown, Jr.

Phillips is serving a 29-year sentence; Brown, who fired the shot that killed Wiley, received nearly 37 years.

In a separate federal case, prosecutors said Phillips got his 9mm handgun from Jerome Fletcher Horton Jr., who bought it at a store in Blaine, and signed a form attesting that he was the actual buyer.

Horton, along with Gabriel Young-Duncan, received sentences of 25 months and 40 months, respectively, after pleading guilty to straw purchasing charges.

Prosecutors said that Horton bought guns from licensed dealers then transferred them to Young-Duncan, who passed them to others.