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After the deadly shooting at Minnesota clinic, health care center says ‘our hearts were broken’

For both patients and staff, the shooting at a Minnesota health care center that killed one person and wounded four others Tuesday has been traumatic, center officials say.

“Our hearts were broken,” Allina Health said in a prepared statement. “The Wright County Sheriff’s Office is leading the ongoing investigation, and we are assisting in any way we can. Right now, our focus is on supporting our staff, their families, and our patients.”

Gregory Ulrich, 67, was taken into custody on suspicion of firing the shots that morning at the Allina Health Care Clinic in the city of Buffalo, Police Chief Pat Budke said.

The shooting is under investigation, but Budke said the suspect is “very familiar” to law enforcement and had been upset with his health care treatment.

The shooting most likely was “targeted at that facility or someone within that facility,” given the suspect’s alleged history of conflict, Budke said.

“There is a history of him being unhappy with health care — with the health care he received,” Budke said Tuesday, adding the suspect has lived in the area a “long time.”

Officers found a suspicious package in the corner of the health clinic’s lobby, and several suspicious devices at a motel where the suspect was staying, according to Wright County Sheriff Sean Deringer. Authorities haven’t elaborated about them.

Ulrich will be charged with second-degree intentional murder, four counts of attempted first-degree premeditated murder and possession of explosive or incendiary devices, Wright County Attorney Brian Lutes said Wednesday.

Ulrich is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday morning, and was being held at the Wright County Jail. It was not clear whether he has an attorney.

As investigators look into what happened, the city — a community of about 16,000 people roughly a 40-mile drive northwest of Minneapolis — is left to process the threat to a place of care.

“As caretakers of victims of gunshots and other violent injuries, nurses and healthcare workers are acutely aware that violence could easily come to the doors of their workplace too,” the Minnesota Nurses Association said. “Seeing other workers become victims shakes any hospital worker to their core.”

Mayor Teri Lachermeier said that officials would be making phone calls to ensure that the mental health of everyone involved is being cared for and that “we’re taking care of those people who are in need of our help.”

The shooting

Police found multiple victims when they responded to a 911 call about shots fired just before 11 a.m. Tuesday, Budke said.

When the sheriff arrived, he found “a horrible-looking scene” in the clinic, and emergency responders rendered aid and removed the victims, whose identities have not been released.

One died at Hennepin County Medical Center, hospital spokeswoman Christine Hill said. Three victims remain in critical but stable condition at North Memorial Health Hospital, and the fourth person was released from that facility.

Tiffany Politte was in the clinic’s parking lot Tuesday morning, about to drop off her mother, when two nurses came running out, she told CNN affiliate WCCO.

“When we asked them what was wrong, they said, ‘There’s been a shooting,'” Politte told WCCO. “Just (wearing) scrubs — (they had) no phones, nothing. They ran out of there pretty quickly.”

Windows near the front door appeared to be shot out just “after they came out,” Politte said.

“They got out of there just in time,” she told WCCO.

The suspect

As victims received care, police took Ulrich into custody. Authorities believe Ulrich acted alone, they said. Budke said he didn’t know how many shots had been fired.

Deringer, the sheriff, said Ulrich’s history with law enforcement dates to 2003.

The suspect has lived in the community “for quite a long time and has had contact with health care within the community during that time,” Budke said.

Though Ulrich had been unhappy with his health care, “there’s also, within that history, nothing to indicate that we would’ve been in the situation that we are at today,” Budke said.

At this point, nothing leads officials to believe that there is “any nexus with any type of domestic terrorism” connected with the shooting, Budke said.

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