NEW HOPE, Minn. (WCCO) — Two police officers are speaking out for the first time about being shot during a New Hope City council meeting two years ago.
Ray Kmetz, who had a long series of disputes with the city of New Hope, burst into the council meeting and began shooting. Council Member John Elder, a former police officer, pointed his gun at Kmetz and shouted “Get down, get down, everybody get down.”
As New Hope council members ducked, Kmetz fired into the crowd.
On Tuesday, the two wounded officers announced they are suing the gun dealer who, through a “straw buyer,” provided the gun to Kmetz, who couldn’t legally buy guns because of his history of mental illness.
Officer Beau Schoenhard saw Ray Kmetz enter the meeting room with a shotgun and lunged at him.
“As I was holding Ray Kmetz and the gun I started hearing more rounds and I knew I was in a really bad place,” Schoenhard said.
Schoenhard was shot in the arm by another officer, who ended up killing Kmetz. But not before Kmetz shot officer Joshua Eernisse in the shoulder.
“Once again I am incredibly grateful that I am here today,” Eernisse said.
Both officers said they are suing Princeton gun dealer Troy Buchholtz to send a message to gun dealers and straw buyers.
“This lawsuit is about doing the right thing and holding people accountable,” Schoenhard said.
In 2015, Buchholtz told WCCO he didn’t think twice when a man named Michael Garant came to pick up guns that had been purchased online under the name Ray Kmetz. Buchholtz told WCCO then, “I see it all the time. People get their bidding numbers turned off so they sign up with a new name, a new Yahoo email account, to become a bidder so that they can buy things.”
Garant said on the federal background check form that the guns were for himself. Garant later pleaded guilty in federal court to lying on the form and served a brief prison term. Attorneys for the two officers say Buchholtz should have known Garant was lying.
“We are very confident that the facts will show that Mr. Buchholtz knew or had every reason to know that this was a straw man sale,” Attorney Phillip Sieff of Robins and Kaplan, which is taking the case pro bono, said.
Lawyers for the officers and the National Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence believe this case will serve as a warning to gun dealers across the country. We were unable to reach gun dealer Troy Buchholtz for comment.
Under Minnesota law, the amount of damages the officers are suing for is not specified but it is in excess of $50,000 for each of the officers and both their wives, who witnessed their husbands being shot.