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Suspect arrested after drive-by shooting at Minnesota Guardsmen

A 28-year-old man has been charged with the illegal possession of a firearm after federal agents say he was caught during a traffic stop with the pistol that fired upon National Guard soldiers in Minneapolis early Sunday morning.

Andrew Thomas was arrested Sunday night after Minneapolis police spotted him driving a 2002 Ford Explorer with heavily tinted windows that matched the suspected vehicle used in the shooting earlier that day, according to a criminal complaint signed by a special agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Inside the Ford Explorer, which was registered to Thomas, police found a 9mm pistol with ballistics that matched the weapon used in the shooting.

The shooting targeted a team of Minnesota Guardsmen and a police officer who were providing neighborhood security in Minneapolis following the police killing of a 20-year-old Black man in a nearby suburb. At roughly 4:20 a.m., a light-colored SUV drove by and fired multiple shots at the team.

One bullet went through the windshield of their military vehicle, which contained four soldiers. Two of those troops were lightly injured by the shattered glass — one was sent to a local hospital and the other was treated at the scene for “superficial wounds,” according to the complaint.

Minnesota Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Scott Hawks told Army Times that both troops were only lightly injured and they have already returned to duty.

Cartridges collected from the shooting were matched to cartridges found inside Thomas’ Ford Explorer after police obtained a warrant and searched it. Police found a Springfield Armory XD-9 9mm pistol, a .22 caliber revolver with an obliterated serial number, ammunition and two discharged cartridge casings, the complaint stated.

Photos from early Sunday morning's drive-by shooting released by Minnesota Guard officials to the public. No one was seriously injured. (National Guard)
Photos from early Sunday morning's drive-by shooting released by Minnesota Guard officials to the public. No one was seriously injured. (National Guard)

The ATF consulted with local police on the ballistics analysis and helped match the 9mm pistol to the one used in the shooting earlier that day. Thomas had a 2017 conviction for 3rd Degree Assault in Hennepin County, Minnesota, and is prohibited under federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition, the complaint added.

Thomas was scheduled to make an initial appearance Tuesday before Magistrate Judge Katherine M. Menendez in U.S. District Court, the Justice Department said.

Roughly 3,000 Guard personnel have been providing security alongside local police in the Minneapolis area as the country awaits a verdict following the Derek Chauvin trial in George Floyd’s death.

Tensions were already high in the area before an April 11 shooting in which a police officer killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center. The city’s police chief said the officer, Kim Potter, accidentally grabbed her handgun instead of her taser. Potter was later charged with second-degree manslaughter.

The military presence in the Minneapolis area has not always been well-received by the local communities, the Minnesota Star Tribute reported. A popular chant last week in Brooklyn Center included demands for the soldiers to “Go home.”

The Minnesota Guard has been working to emphasize on their social media channels that their personnel “are civilians 28 days of the month, just like” the demonstrators, and are often-times members of the Minneapolis community, too.

“I am relieved to know none of our guardsmen were seriously injured,” said Adjutant General of the Minnesota Guard Maj. Gen. Shawn Manke following the shooting. “This event highlights the volatility and tension in our communities right now. I ask for peace as we work through this difficult time.”

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