Federal prosecutors charged a Minneapolis man with illegally buying and reselling one of the pistols used in a gunfight last week that left 14 injured and one dead inside St. Paul's Seventh Street Truck Park bar.
Jerome Fletcher Horton, Jr. has purchased 33 guns since mid-June, many of which investigators say he illegally sold to others, according to an affidavit underlying charges unsealed Tuesday, written by an agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Authorities found one of those guns - a 9mm semi-automatic pistol - stained with fresh blood inside a vehicle, according to the ATF affidavit. Authorities found the vehicle after seeing surveillance footage of a suspect climbing into the back seat after the bar shooting, and some of the shells collected on the bar floor matched weapon.
Horton is charged with buying a firearm and illegally selling it to another person. This practice, known as "straw purchasing" or "lying and buying," is a primary driver of how illegal guns are flooding the streets and driving violent crime rates in the Twin Cities, federal authorities say.
The gunfight at the Truck Bar, on Oct. 10, marked the largest mass shooting in recent history in St. Paul. The shots rang out just after midnight, sending patrons flooding out to the sidewalk and killing 27-year-old Marquisha Wiley.
The St. Paul Police Department identified one of the shooting suspects, according to charging documents. Surveillance footage showed the suspect leave the bar carrying a firearm and climb into the vehicle. Investigators found the 9mm semi-automatic pistol in the car.
The ATF traced the gun to Horton, who'd purchased it at Fleet Farm along with two others this summer. Horton had bought more guns at Frontiersman Sport in St. Louis Park, and some employees there said they'd been suspicious of Horton; after one purchase, they'd captured Horton on surveillance waving the boxes in the air to people waiting outside, according to the ATF affidavit.
The ATF searched Horton's home, but found no guns. Horton denied straw buying the guns, but he admitted to selling seven guns to four different people, according to the ATF. He first told investigators that some of the guns had been stolen, then said they'd been taken from a stash location at the Lamplighter Lounge strip club.
Horton made his first appearance in U.S. District Court on Tuesday. He is being held in the Sherburne County jail.
Straw buying is usually a means for people to get guns who are legally prohibited from possessing them due to their criminal histories. It's illegal, but difficult to prove, which is why only a small fraction of straw buyers face consequences. Earlier this summer, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Minnesota charged a woman with illegally straw purchasing 47 guns in a single month, some of which were turning up in shooting investigations weeks later.
Horton is the third person to be charged in connection with the shooting.
Andy Mannix • 612-673-4036