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Adult-business owner shot after taking hostages

A man who had fought with county officials for years over his adult businesses held about 10 people hostage at a board meeting before law-enforcement officers fatally shot him, authorities said.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A man who had fought with county officials for years over his adult businesses walked into a board meeting with a gun on Tuesday and held about 10 people hostage before law-enforcement officers fatally shot him, authorities said.

A few people managed to escape the county commissioners' meeting Tuesday morning after Gordon Wheeler Sr. pulled out a handgun, said Dave Bjerga, assistant superintendent for the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

They called the Morrison County sheriff's office and a few minutes later, Sheriff Michel Wetzel, a deputy and a state trooper fired on Wheeler, Bjerga said. The 60-year-old was pronounced dead later at a hospital.

No one else was injured, and it wasn't clear whether Wheeler fired his gun, Bjerga said. An autopsy was set for Wednesday.

"He came in and interrupted a regularly scheduled board meeting," Bjerga said. "We're still interviewing people in the room to find out what exactly happened."

Motive uncertain
Bjerga said that although Wheeler had had several conflicts over the years with officials in rural Morrison County, about 100 miles northwest of Minneapolis, investigators don't know what Wheeler's motive was.

County Administrator Tim Houle referred all questions to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Two county commissioners seen outside the government building after the incident did not immediately return messages to The Associated Press.

The county boardroom is in a complex that also houses courtrooms, the jail and the sheriff's department. Little Falls, a town of about 8,000 people, is best known as the childhood home of Charles Lindbergh.

Bjerga hadn't confirmed whether visitors to the building were required to pass through a metal detector, but he said security isn't as tight as it is in some county government buildings.

Wheeler had owned a few adult businesses in the county that have since closed. The county in 2003 made its land-use ordinance for sex-related businesses stricter and then moved to shut down an adult book and video store Wheeler owned, according to past reports by the St. Cloud Times.

Wheeler also was the owner of an exotic dancing club called Camp Bar. But after Wheeler was convicted in 2006 of promoting and profiting from prostitution the bar was ordered to close.

Wheeler later sued the county and several county officials, accusing them of corruption. The last of those lawsuits was dismissed by a judge this year.