Tom Hackbarth won't be charged in armed search for girlfriend

St. Paul police suspected Republican state Rep. Tom Hackbarth of stalking and harassment the day he strapped a loaded gun to his hip, parked his pickup truck next to Planned Parenthood in Highland Park, and went hunting down an alley for a girlfriend he said he met online.

But he won't be prosecuted.

Sara Grewing, the St. Paul city attorney, said yesterday that while the Anoka County lawmaker "was less than honest" with police, there was no victim and not enough evidence to proceed with the case.

Hackbarth's story began to unravel the moment he turned into the Planned Parenthood lot on Nov. 16. A nervous guard, who figured he might be looking an armed anti-abortion protester, called the cops.

When police arrived, he told them he was checking on whether the woman he'd met online was parked where she said she would be for a rendezvous. She wasn't. He was agitated, so they took away his gun. But they didn't arrest him.

Hackbarth has a permit to carry the weapon, and he showed up a few days later to claim it. That's when the story became public, and security video showing him with the gun on his hip was splashed all over the news.

Hackbarth told reporters that he had no idea he had parked at Planned Parenthood, and he couldn't understand what all the fuss was about, but the story wouldn't go away. Police discovered that the woman Hackbarth was looking for doesn't seem to exist.

An anonymous tipster then told the cops that Hackbarth was really looking for a woman who worked at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. But she was flummoxed.

"The woman told us that she knows him but has no idea what he would be doing in the area," police spokesman Andy Skoogman said.

She also wasn't interested in pursuing the matter. So at the beginning of this month, police turned the case over to the city attorney's office.

In the meantime, while the rest of his Republican brethren are celebrating their takeover of the Legislature and lining up priorities for the coming session, Hackbarth is on the sidelines.

House Speaker-elect Kurt Zellers suspended Hackbarth from his upcoming post as chairman of the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee. And Hackbarth eventually resigned from the position altogether, apologizing for the whole sorry episode.

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