Sheriff, two others shoot hostage taker in Morrison County

4:38 AM, Jun 25, 2008   |    comments
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Authorities shot and killed a man who took 10 hostages inside the Morrison County Government Center Tuesday morning. The hostage taker, 60 year old Gordon Wheeler, Sr., had a long history of disputes with the county board over his adult oriented and x-rated businesses. Authorities confirm Sheriff Michel Wetzel, Minnesota State Trooper Kaj Meinhardt, and Morrison County Sheriff's Lieutenant Bruce Motes each fired shots at Wheeler. Authorities would not say whether Wheeler, who had a handgun, fired any shots. Meinhardt has served on the Minnesota State Patrol since 2000. Sheriff Wetzel has served with the Morrison County Sheriff's Office since 1983; and Lt. Motes has served Morrison County Sheriff's Office since 1980. County authorities declined for several hours to confirm Wheeler was killed. The incident happened shortly after 10:30 Tuesday morning. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension confirmed the death just before 4:00 p.m. Law enforcement officers dressed in fatigues and armed with rifles responded to the scene, as county government workers stood outside the building. Police closed one entrance to the courthouse with yellow tape. Gordon Wheeler, Sr., reportedly walked into the government center around 10:20 Tuesday morning, with a handgun hidden in a bandana, and went into the Morrison County board meeting, which is typically held in a small room. It's believed two county commissioners were among the 10 hostages. No hostages were hurt. According to the St. Cloud Times, Wheeler's controversial businesses include Camp Bar, a club featuring exotic dancing near Camp Ripley, and a strip club and adult book and video store near Swanville called Lookin' Fine Smut and Porno. The Times reports that in 2003, Morrison County revamped its land-use ordinances to tighten restrictions on sexually oriented businesses. The county then moved to shut down Lookin' Fine because it violated the ordinance by being too close to two homes and a tavern. A Morrison County judge ordered Lookin' Fine to close in 2005, and the Minnesota Supreme Court declined to hear Wheeler's appeal, according to the paper. The Times also says that in 2006, Wheeler was convicted of promoting and profiting from prostitution after police conducted an undercover investigation at Camp Bar. He served a jail sentence. The county board declined to renew Wheeler's liquor license for the Camp Bar and sought a temporary injunction to close the business. A judge ordered the bar to close in June 2006. The St. Cloud Time also reports that Wheeler sued the county for $5 million and filed lawsuits against County Administrator Tim Houle, Commissioner Tom Wenzel and former planning and zoning administrator Roger Kukok, accusing them of corruption. A Stearns County District judge dismissed the lawsuit against the county in November 2007. And in February, another judge dismissed the last three lawsuits against the county officials. Stearns County District Court Judge John Scherer also placed restrictions on Wheeler's ability to file anything in court against the county in the future.

(Copyright 2008 by KARE 11 News. All Rights Reserved.)

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