Cook County sheriff: Suspect went out to vehicle to get gun, returned to courthouseUPDATE, WITH VIDEO FROM NEWS CONFERENCE: Daniel Schlienz's defense attorney in his criminal sexual conduct trial said Schlienz's reaction to the guilty verdict seemed "normal" — until he heard the gunshots.
By: Mark Stodghill, Brandon Stahl and Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune
GRAND MARAIS — Investigators believe that Daniel Schlienz, the suspect in the shooting of two people in the Cook County Courthouse Thursday, went out to his vehicle and got a gun after a jury found him guilty of criminal sexual conduct. That’s according to Cook County Sheriff Mark Falk, who spoke at a news conference this morning.
He re-entered the courthouse and went to the office of County Attorney Timothy Scannell with the loaded weapon, Falk said.
Gregory Thompson, 53, of Grand Marais, a witness subpoenaed to testify in Schlienz’s trial, was in Scannell’s office and was shot in the leg.
Scannell, 45, was shot behind a counter in his office. Falk said Schlienz then left the office and saw Thompson on a nearby landing, where he shot him a second time.
Responding to the gunshots, Deputy Gary Radloff, 70, a bailiff, cleared the jury and Judge Mark Munger of Duluth from the courtroom and confronted Schlienz. Radloff was injured but not shot, Falk said.
Meanwhile, Schlienz’s attorney, John Lillie, came to Scannell’s aid, the sheriff said.
Lillie told the News Tribune that the shooting began minutes after a jury convicted his client of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. He was accused of having consensual sex with a girl under the age of 16 when he was 35.
The jury found him not guilty of a more-serious charge of forcing the same girl to have sex with him, Lillie said.
Following the verdict, Lillie said he was speaking to Schlienz and his mother, Ginger Berglund, in a conference room on the second floor of the two-story courthouse when Schlienz left.
“I didn’t think anything of it,” Lillie said. “People convicted of crimes are upset, but his reaction was as normal as any other I’ve seen.”
Moments later, he said he heard a loud sound like that of slamming a watch against a wall. It wasn’t until a second sound that he realized it was gunshots.
Lillie said he ran outside the conference room and heard a man screaming for help. As he ran to the man, Thompson, he saw Schlienz enter the county attorney’s office.
He helped Thompson get outside and into a car, then went back inside the courthouse. He said he heard more shots, ran back up to the second floor and found Scannell severely bleeding, in shock and having trouble breathing.
“He kept screaming that he had been shot and needed an ambulance,” Lillie said. “At one time he was telling me to tell his wife that he loved her.”
Lillie said he stayed with Scannell as Radloff, Assistant County Attorney Molly Hicken and Schlienz’s mother were with Schlienz. He said he didn’t know how they were able to subdue Schlienz.
Hicken helped retrieve the gun from Schlienz, said Michael Scott, partner in an Anoka law firm with Molly’s father, Jeff Hicken.
“She threw it out the window,” Scott said, noting the information was secondhand. He said Molly Hicken wasn’t struck by gunfire but had some “bumps and bruises.”
Scannell was shot twice in the abdomen and once in the groin. He is recovering from surgery and listed in fair condition at Essentia Health St. Mary’s Medical Center. Thompson was treated for multiple gunshot wounds to the leg and is listed in good condition.
Schlienz, Hicken and Radloff were treated for minor injuries Thursday night and released from Cook County Northshore Hospital. Schlienz was injured while being subdued with a Taser and Mace, said State Patrol Sgt. Mark Baker.
Schlienz is being lodged in the Cook County Jail. Charges are expected to be filed against him on Monday, Falk said.
Schlienz is a former professional boxer at Chuck Horton’s gym in Duluth. Before officials identified Schlienz, his father told the News Tribune that Schlienz was probably the suspect.
“He hated the prosecuting attorney that did this,” said Gary Schlienz of Grand Marais.
Gary Schlienz said his son’s mother was in the courthouse during the shooting and tried to take the gun away from her son. He said the prosecution of his son had taken a severe toll, with his son threatening suicide as recently as two weeks ago.
“I don’t want to make excuses for him, but they prosecuted him pretty bad. He had no job, no money, nothing,” Gary Schlienz said.
Gary Schlienz said he had no warnings that his son might harm others.
“I apologize to everybody for this and I wish to God it hadn’t happened,” Gary Schlienz said.
Daniel Schlienz in 2006 entered an Alford plea on charges that he sexually assaulted two 15-year-old girls and one 17-year-old girl. In 2007, he moved to withdraw the plea, a motion that was initially denied by the sentencing court. The Court of Appeals in January ruled that his plea withdrawal should have been accepted and reversed his conviction, which paved the way for the trial.
Gary Schlienz said that when his son initially pleaded guilty to criminal sexual conduct in 2006, he went to his son’s home, took his guns, and put them in a safe in his home. Schlienz said he checked the guns Thursday, and none was taken.
Daniel Schlienz was a professional fighter for Horton, a Duluth boxing promoter, in the early 2000s, Horton told the News Tribune. Horton said Schlienz was his first professional fighter, but he fired him over concerns that he had about how he treated women.
“My instincts said, ‘Something’s not right,’” Horton said.
Horton said he had been scheduled to testify about Schlienz’s behavior in the trial, but he was called Wednesday by the prosecuting attorney that his testimony was being blocked.
The Cook County Courthouse in Grand Marais was closed Friday.