St. Catherine's guard pleads guilty in shooting incident
ST. PAUL — A St. Catherine University security guard has admitted to falsely accusing a black man of shooting him during an incident that sparked an extensive police manhunt for the made-up perpetrator this fall.
On the same day Brent Patrick Ahlers was scheduled to be arraigned in Ramsey County District Court on allegations of falsely reporting a crime, the 35-year-old St. Louis Park man submitted a petition via mail to enter a guilty plea to the misdemeanor charge.
By filing the petition, Ahlers didn't have to attend his Tuesday, Oct. 31, court hearing.
"I reported to the police that someone had fired a shot at me. I knew the police that I reported the crime to were on-duty peace officers. I knew the report was false and intended that the officers act in reliance upon my report," his signed petition read.
His attorney, Eric Rice, declined to comment on Ahlers decision to plead guilty.
Ahlers called 911 on the night of Sept. 12 and said he was shot by a suspicious person he claimed he confronted in a wooded area of St. Catherine's campus along Cleveland Avenue.
He told authorities the shooter was a black male with "a short Afro," according to police scanner traffic posted by MN Police Clips.
The report set off an intense manhunt that involved 55 officers, four dogs and a Minnesota State Patrol aircraft. The university was temporarily shut down following the report.
The next day, after being treated for his injuries at Regions Hospital, Ahlers reportedly confessed that he made the whole thing up.
He told investigators that he accidentally shot himself while handling his personal handgun and lied about it out of fear of losing his job, St. Paul police said at the time.
The incident sparked anger among some in the community who said Ahlers' choice to implicate a black man in his story painfully perpetuated a long history of African-Americans being wrongfully accused of crimes.
Some community leaders also said Ahlers' reckless accusation put black men in jeopardy during the police manhunt.
Ahlers faces up to 90 days in jail for his conviction, a $1,000 fine, or both.
He is expected to attend his sentencing hearing.
The university terminated Ahlers' employment shortly after the incident.
University President Becky Roloff said in a statement at the time that the university "strongly condemns racial discrimination, racial stereotyping, and racial profiling of any kind. The statements attributed to the former employee concerning the race of an alleged suspect are deeply troubling and do not reflect our values."