Brent Ahlers had most of the St. Catherine's University campus terrified of an active shooter.
Then he had most of America pissed off about a white man blaming a nonexistent black man, when, in fact, the gunshot wound Ahlers sustained was self-inflicted.
On Monday, as reported by the Pioneer Press, Ahlers appeared in court for the first part of his sentencing for the misdemeanor crime of false reporting. "I am sorry for the event in general," Ahlers told the court, "and for the fear and pain that I caused."
Ahlers' defense attorney, meanwhile, said his client had been punished in some ways already: Fired from his job as a St. Kate's security guard, Ahlers has since moved out of Minnesota to "escape the backlash."
The St. Paul City Attorney's Office had pushed for Ahlers to receive a 60-day jail sentence. He might still, but first, Ahlers will get a chance to prove to the court that he can stay out of trouble and learn a lesson.
Back in September, Ahlers, 35, sent St. Paul Police on a fruitless chase for a black man -- one sporting a "short afro" and wearing a navy blue sweatshirt, which, coincidentally, said "NAVY" on it -- who Ahlers claimed had attacked and shot him. In Ahlers' telling, their confrontation started after he caught his darker-complected assailant smoking marijuana.
After a campus-wide search involving 55 officers and a Minnesota State Patrol helicopter, no one was found.
The next morning, Ahlers admitted he'd shot himself, and with a gun he wasn't allowed to have on campus. Ahlers' attorney told the court he'd mistakenly left the gun in a backpack, and that it fired while he was attempting to clean it.
Instead of jail time, Ahlers will pay a $4,500 fine, as restitution for the public costs run up by the search. Ahlers will also have to attend sessions of a Ramsey County class for the rehabilitation of people whose lives were affected by the criminal justice system.
"Most" in Ahlers' class will be black, Ramsey County Judge Nicole Starr told Ahlers Monday, adding she expects "you'll have a little more to say than 'I'm sorry,'" after completing the course. Starr held out the possibility Ahlers would still serve two months in jail if he does not follow the terms of his sentence. (Ahlers is also prohibited from possessing firearms during that time.)
Tyron Terrill, leader of the African American Leadership Council, says he is already a regular attendee of the same criminal justice men's group Ahlers was sentenced to, and told the Pioneer Press that while he does not expect Ahlers to change, "[Ahlers] will feel the wrath of our community."
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