Updated 3 p.m. | Posted 11:23 a.m.
Federal prosecutors Wednesday charged Michael Ronald Garant with illegally buying guns for Raymond Kenneth Kmetz, the man who opened fire at New Hope City Hall in January and was killed by police.
The criminal complaint says Kmetz was the highest bidder in an online auction for three shotguns that were actually bought by Garant Aug. 23 at Full Metal Gun Shop in Princeton, Minnesota.
When he came to collect the weapons, Garant, 42, of Golden Valley, allegedly told the gun shop's owner that he used the alias "Ray Kmetz" during the online auction to hide his true identity and then showed the store owner his driver's license.
He faces one count of making a false statement to acquire firearms on behalf of another person.
At an afternoon court hearing Wednesday, Garant did not enter a plea. He was released with conditions that weren't specified in court. He told the court he's a part-time cab driver, mostly unemployed.
Magistrate Judge Steven Rau told Rau, "Try not to do any more favors for friends."
"I will not," Garant responded.
U.S. Attorney Andy Luger says investigators are able to identify illegal straw gun purchasers in most cases.
"Generally speaking when one of these weapons ends up being used in a crime, we're able to trace it back to the original owner and we're able to trace the relationship between the original owner and the person who used the gun for the crime," Luger said. "And that helps us make the connection and be able to charge the person as the straw purchaser."
Kmetz was killed in a Jan. 26 confrontation with New Hope police officers just outside the Minneapolis suburb's council chambers. The 68-year-old had a troubled history of run-ins over the years with government agencies and the law, including arrests for assault, stalking and making threats, according to court records.
Kmetz was prohibited by state law from owning the pistol-grip shotgun he used in the attack. He had been in and out of the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter and Anoka-Metro Regional Treatment Center.
Following the shooting, authorities traced the gun deal to Garant, who's described in the complaint as a 15-year acquaintance of Kmetz.