Crime, Law and Justice

Investigators say alleged clinic gunman angry after being denied opioids

Law enforcement outside a health clinic.
A Wright County Sheriff vehicle is seen parked outside the Allina Health clinic in Buffalo, Minn., after a shooting there on Feb. 9.
Kerem Yucel | AFP via Getty Images file

Updated: 6:13 p.m.

Investigators say the man who allegedly shot and killed a nursing assistant and wounded four other people at a clinic in Buffalo, Minn., was angry that physicians had cut off his supply of opioid painkillers. 

Gregory Paul Ulrich
Gregory Paul Ulrich.
Wright County Sheriff's Office via AP

Gregory Ulrich, 67, is charged with murder, attempted murder, using explosives and carrying a gun without a permit in the Feb. 9 attack at the Allina Health clinic.

Lindsay Overbay, 37, was killed in the attack. Four other staff members were hospitalized with gunshot wounds. Ulrich also allegedly set off three pipe bombs inside the clinic, and investigators recovered a fourth device, which did not explode, inside a briefcase. 

In a newly unsealed search warrant application, Wright County Sheriff's Deputy Patrick Bailey writes: “Ulrich has a dependency on opioid-style pain medications and was upset that his legal supply had been stopped.”

Bailey cites a 2018 petition for a harassment restraining order from Dr. Andrew Burgdorf that documents Ulrich’s history of opioid use. 

It says Ulrich was prescribed opioid pain medication following back surgery in 2016 at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis. Shortly thereafter, he was hospitalized for an opioid overdose, and physicians refused to prescribe any more after “Ulrich made statements about mixing the opioids with alcohol.” 

Burgdorf indicated that Ulrich allegedly made escalating threats to clinic staff and “stated that killing one individual wouldn’t be enough” and that he hoped to create “enough of a sensation to get public recognition that would warrant at least 30 years in jail and possibly a straight jacket.” 

After a judge barred Ulrich from Allina property unless transported there by EMTs, he appears to have sought opioids at other medical facilities including St. Cloud Hospital.

Court documents also say that Stellis Health, which has clinics in Buffalo, Monticello and Albertville, Minn., kept a “threat assessment” file on Ulrich, that included “notes, emails, and other documentation of concerning correspondence and/or interactions” with him dating back to the spring of 2018. 

Investigators also say that Ulrich recorded a video just before allegedly opening fire at the clinic. In it, he mentions “consuming more than 30 pills at a time.”

According to court documents, a search of Ulrich’s room at the Buffalo Super 8 motel turned up a plastic bag that contained six oxycodone pills. Bailey says Ulrich appears to have obtained the pills on the black market because “people who obtain oxycodone legally rarely store the pills in a sandwich bag.”

Shortly after Burgdorf obtained the restraining order, the Buffalo City Attorney’s Office charged Ulrich with violating it — a misdemeanor. Prosecutors dropped the case in April 2020 after a psychologist determined that Ulrich was not mentally competent to proceed with the case. The restraining order expired last December. 

Documents in the misdemeanor case say Ulrich attempted to apply to the Buffalo Police Department for a permit to purchase a gun. A court official wrote that because of the allegations that Burgdorf raised in the restraining order, “it is highly recommended that the defendant not be allowed to have use or possession of any dangerous weapons or firearms.” 

Investigators have not said how Ulrich obtained the 9mm handgun he allegedly used to attack the clinic staff. At a news conference last week, Wright County Sheriff Sean Deringer said Minnesota law bars him from saying whether Ulrich applied for a purchase permit. 

The Wright County Attorney’s Office asked a judge to unseal any firearms records related to the case, but Judge Stephen Halsey ruled last week that the court does not have the authority to release the data.

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