Grand Marais in shock after courthouse shooting

Cook County Courthouse
In a Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011 photo, law enforcement personnel work at the scene of a multiple shooting at the Cook County Courthouse in Grand Marais, Minn. after a gunman opened fire in the courthouse on Thursday, wounding the local prosecutor and two other people, authorities said.
AP Photo/Duluth News Tribune, Clint Austin

Investigators on Friday were trying to piece together the details of a shooting at the Cook County courthouse that left three people injured a day earlier.

Cook County Sheriff Mark Falk said during a news conference Friday that his community was recovering from the shock of what happened.

The Big Story Blog is following this story all day Friday.

"This is a very resilient community. We're a strong community, and we're not going to let something like this take us down," he said.

Falk also expressed relief that no one was killed in the incident. "There were a lot of heroes that really averted something much more serious," he said.

Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell
Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell is seen in an undated photo provided by the Cook County Attorney's Office. Scannell was shot at the Cook County Courthouse in Grand Marais, Minn., on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011 when a gunman opened fire in the courthouse, on Thursday, wounding Scannell and two other people, authorities said. The suspect in the shootings is 42-year-old Daniel Schlienz, who had been on trial earlier Thursday on sexual misconduct charges. Schlienz was being held in the county jail. Scannell was in fair condition Friday.
Courtesy the Cook County Attorney's Office via AP

State Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Superintendent Wade Setter agreed the situation could have been much worse. BCA investigators are helping the sheriff's department with the investigation, and the state Attorney General will prosecute the case, Setter said.

Charges against 42-year-old Daniel Schlienz are expected Monday. He's accused of opening fire on the county prosecutor, a trial witness and the courthouse bailiff after a jury convicted him of third-degree criminal sexual conduct stemming from his involvement with a 15-year-old girl.

Cook County Attorney Timothy Scannell, 45, and Gregory Thompson, 53, remained hospitalized Friday with gunshot wounds. Thompson had been a subpoenaed witness in the trial. A third victim, 70-year-old Gary Radloff, was serving as the courtroom bailiff. He was treated and released Thursday.

Scannell's surgery Thursday was successful and his condition was upgraded to fair at St. Mary's Hospital in Duluth, said Essentia Health spokeswoman Beth Johnson. Thompson, who was shot three times, also underwent surgery at St. Mary's this morning and is good condition, Johnson said.

Schlienz's attorney, John Lillie, said he and Schlienz's mother were in a conference room discussing possible sentences afterward when Schlienz walked away. A moment later, Lillie said he heard gunshots.

"The county attorney had been shot and had crawled out of his office and was laying in the hallway floor," Lillie said. "It was pretty scary. There was a lot of blood. He was in shock. He was in a lot of pain."

Lillie said he pulled Scannell's belt off of him and wrapped it around his leg to stop the bleeding. On Friday, the sheriff credited Lillie with saving the county attorney's life.

Daniel Schlienz booking photo
This booking photo shows Daniel Schlienz, 42, of Grand Marais, who is suspected of shooting three men, including County Attorney Timothy Scannell, in the county courthouse on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011.
Photo courtesy Minnesota Department of Public Safety

Lillie said he then saw Schlienz involved in a standoff.

"He was in the county attorney's office with the bailiff and the assistant county attorney and they were all trying to subdue him," Lillie said.

Lillie said his client gave no indication that he was planning to harm anyone.

"He didn't seem any different than any other client as far as feeling that, you know, someone's out to get him or something, but nothing severe or extreme, anything like that," he said.

Lillie said it's not uncommon for defendants to express anger at a county attorney.

"Like a lot of criminal defendants, a lot of them feel it's more personal," he said. "They feel that the county attorney or whoever's prosecuting them is taking this personally and not realizing that that's their job."


Reached Friday at his home, Schlienz's father Gary Schlienz said it's taken awhile for him to accept what happened.

"It's still like a dream. I never thought that I'd have to face this," he said. "I just wish it didn't happen. Nobody deserved this."

Gary Schlienz said his son told him "he snapped," and that didn't realize what he was doing. Schlienz said he's thought for years now that his son was suicidal, noting his son had made comments indicating he wanted to kill himself. Schlienz said he now wonders if his son was hoping that law enforcement officers would shoot him.

Schlienz said he doesn't know where his son got the handgun used in the shooting. He took all his son's guns away from him six years ago and locked them up. Gary Schlienz checked the safe Thursday night to make sure his son hadn't been by. All of them were there, he said.

Daniel Schlienz had been "pretty down lately," his father said, adding that no one would give him a job after he was charged with criminal sexual conduct. His son didn't have any money and lived in a house owned by his mother.

Gary Schlienz said it's hard to face his community after what happened. Some people have shown him support but others have given him dirty looks.

"How do I face even my friends?" he asked. "It's going to be hard to get over this."


The Cook County courthouse does not have metal detectors. County Commissioner Fritz Sobanja said the county board considered increasing security more than two years ago.

"The county board had this discussion and that's where it ended. It had this discussion and no extra security measures beyond the ones that exist were ever done," Sobanja said.

The sheriff said resources were the issue.

"We're a small community, we've got limited resources, limited funding," Falk said. "We very rarely have trials in Cook County, for one thing."

He said the county will review courthouse security after this incident.

John Kostouros, spokesman for the Minnesota courts system, said most courthouses around the state have metal detectors, though some only have them at entrances to the courtrooms.

Jim Franklin, executive director of the Minnesota Sheriff's Association, said his group has provided training for county court staff to improve security. For smaller counties that can't afford buying a metal detector and staffing it, that means learning to identify which court cases might carry additional risk.

"What we are teaching is how to predict and what factors to look for in trying to determine which cases might be emotionally charged, which cases might be subject to high involvement of potential risk," he said.

(MPR reporters Elizabeth Dunbar, Rupa Shenoy and Madeleine Baran contributed to this report from St. Paul.)

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