BUFFALO, Minn. — A man was in custody after a shooting at a health clinic outside of Minneapolis on Tuesday that left five people injured, the authorities in Buffalo, Minn., said.
The shooting sent a wave of panic through residents of the tight-knit community, who were devastated that health care workers — already under siege over 11 months of a pandemic — were now contending with violence at work. By midafternoon, a suspect was in custody, a man with a history of grievances that authorities said they had known of for years.
“It is heart-wrenching to see the violence that occurred today in Buffalo in a place Minnesotans go to heal,” Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota wrote on Twitter.
The shooting took place at the Allina Clinic Crossroads in Buffalo, a city of about 16,000 residents about 40 miles northwest of Minneapolis. The clinic provides health screenings, child vaccinations and primary care, among other services, according to its website.
A little before 11 a.m., police officers responded to a call that shots had been fired at the clinic. The officers who arrived found several people who were injured and began trying to provide aid, Sheriff Sean Deringer of Wright County said at a news conference. He said that officers had found a “suspicious package” in a corner of the clinic’s lobby, and that a bomb squad from Minneapolis had arrived to inspect the package. The officials said it was unclear if any explosive had detonated.
Kelly Spratt, the president of Allina Health Buffalo, said five victims had been taken to hospitals. He declined to say whether the victims were patients at the clinic or members of the staff. Three patients remained in critical condition on Tuesday evening, and one was released from a hospital. The condition of the fifth patient was not released.
At the news conference, the sheriff announced that the suspected gunman was Gregory P. Ulrich, 67.
Mr. Ulrich was charged with first-degree assault and was being held at the Wright County Jail, according to Capt. Pat O’Malley, who oversees the jail. He said more charges were expected. No representative for Mr. Ulrich could be reached on Tuesday evening.
The authorities said that Mr. Ulrich lived most recently at a Super 8 motel in Buffalo, which the police also evacuated and searched after the shooting. They found several suspicious devices at the motel but declined to elaborate.
The police said they have had many contacts with Mr. Ulrich dating back to 2003, and Chief Pat Budke of the Buffalo Police Department indicated that Mr. Ulrich had been treated at Buffalo clinics and may have been targeting someone there. It was “most likely that this incident was targeted at that facility or people within that facility,” said Chief Budke, who had to pause several times in the news conference as he was overcome with emotion. He said that medical facilities in the area had treated or “attempted to give treatment” to Mr. Ulrich.
In an interview, Mr. Ulrich’s younger brother Richard said Gregory Ulrich had back surgery about two years ago, after which he became dependent on opioids and frequently grew frustrated when doctors refused to prescribe them to him.
They last spoke about two months ago, the brother said.
“It seemed like he was mad at the doctors,” said Richard Ulrich, who lives in Florida. “He would call me once in a while, but that’s usually what he would talk about, that he was mad at the doctors for not giving him opioids and that they should open up the gates on the opioids. It didn’t make a lot of sense to me.”
Richard Ulrich said his brother worked in construction for some years and had possibly injured his back on the job, though he believed that his brother had not worked for a long time.
“He just didn’t sound like the same person I knew,” Richard Ulrich said of his brother after the surgery. “I think the opioids had gotten to him.”
Dirk Foster, a past church council president at Zion Lutheran Church in Buffalo, described Mr. Ulrich as “sort of a known entity in our small town.” He recalled an incident in the summer of 2019, when the church learned of a troubling letter Mr. Ulrich had written that got him barred from church grounds.
He also said that a person who goes to the church works as a doctor at the clinic, but was not there at the time of the shooting.
That the suspect turned out to be a man who was already known to be nursing a long list of his personal grievances was hardly a reassurance in a small town.
“I couldn’t believe in a community like Buffalo that’s so tight-knit that you would see something like this happen,” said Don Muilenburg, 71, a pastor who several years ago had worked with many of the clinic’s staff workers at a different clinic in Buffalo. While he said he was unsure what led to the shooting, he said that the tensions in the country, pandemic-related and otherwise, had to have contributed.
“Our country is broken,” he said, “and today is a sign of that.”
Matt Furber reported from Buffalo, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs from New York, and Campbell Robertson from Pittsburgh. Concepción de León contributed reporting from New York, and Johnny Diaz from Miami.