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Minnesota lawmaker stopped with gun at abortion clinic

ST. PAUL - Tuesday afternoon, state Rep. Tom Hackbarth went to the St. Paul Police Department and picked up his gun. How his silver .38-caliber revolver came into the possession of the cops is a story that Hackbarth himself acknowledges sounds "r...

Tom Hackbarth
Minnesota Representative Tom Hackbarth (R) District 48A.

ST. PAUL - Tuesday afternoon, state Rep. Tom Hackbarth went to the St. Paul Police Department and picked up his gun.

How his silver .38-caliber revolver came into the possession of the cops is a story that Hackbarth himself acknowledges sounds "really weird and odd."

Last week, St. Paul police pulled the Anoka County Republican over and seized his loaded Smith & Wesson after he told them he was "jealous" about his "girlfriend," whom he didn't have any contact information for but suspected was with another man, according to police reports.

Police had been called to the city's Highland Park neighborhood by a security guard at a Planned Parenthood clinic, where Hackbarth had parked and appeared "suspicious."

Hackbarth, who has a permit to carry a concealed weapon, was briefly handcuffed and released without being charged with a crime, and he told the Pioneer Press he did nothing wrong or illegal.


Officers at the scene, however, suspected him of "stalking-like behavior" and borderline "harassment or terroristic threats," so they hung on to his weapon, reports state.

"What did I do that was so bad?" he asked a reporter during an interview Tuesday. "According to me, all I did was go to an empty parking lot and parked my truck ... walked around the block, and picked up the car and left."

Hackbarth said he had no idea he was parking in a Planned Parenthood parking lot. A gun-rights advocate, he said he usually carries his revolver on him and emphasized that's perfectly


The 58-year-old married father of three said he and his wife are separated and planning to divorce. He said the woman, whom he met through an online dating service, "wasn't even a girlfriend" and said his description to police that he was "jealous" wasn't accurate.

"It's not like I was really jealous, but you know how you meet this person and you really like her, and she's saying all the right things, but you think she's feeding you a line of bull--? She's giving you all this ... and you want to figure out what's going on. Well that's what I did," he said in a telephone interview in which he readily talked about the incident but questioned its newsworthiness. "Sure enough, she lied to me and I'm done with it."

He said the notion that police suspected him of terroristic behavior is "insane," but he acknowledged, "It's really weird and odd when all taken together, and I can see how people took things the way they did."

The incident occurred about 5 p.m. Nov. 16, the evening before Hackbarth, who was first elected to the state House in 1994, was announced as the next chairman of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee by GOP leadership.


A security guard at Planned Parenthood told police he saw a man back his pickup truck into a space at the Ford Parkway clinic, get out, change coats and walk down an alley. When the man changed coats, the guard saw a holstered handgun on his hip, according to police reports. (Hackbarth said he changed coats because it was cold out.)

The man returned to his truck and drove off just before police arrived. The guard pointed police to the truck, and an officer pulled Hackbarth over a few blocks east, ordering him out at gunpoint and then handcuffing him. Police drove the security guard to the scene, and he identified Hackbarth as the man from the parking lot.

An officer asked Hackbarth what he was doing. "Hackbarth said he was a state legislator and was headed back to work," according to a report by one of several officers involved.

"I was looking for my girlfriend," the report quotes Hackbarth as saying. "It was a stupid jealousy thing. I thought she was seeing another guy and I was going to check on her. She was suppose(d) to be at one of the shops over here, so I parked my truck and went to look for her car."

Hackbarth provided officers the name of the woman but said he had no contact information for her and could not recall the website where he met her. Officers couldn't contact the woman, citing a lack of information. The Pioneer Press also couldn't contact the woman.

In his interview with the Pioneer Press, Hackbarth explained that in one of the dating websites he uses, people communicate with each other via e-mail routed through a central website. "You don't have an actual e-mail address," he said.

"I honestly can't give you any information," he said. "When you meet somebody online -- if that's where you go -- you meet somebody and you go out for coffee. You don't exactly tell each other your life stories."

He said he uses "maybe three or four" different dating sites and couldn't remember which one.


He said the woman he was looking for was the only one he had ever actually met face to face through online dating. "You don't get a lot of responses when you say you're separated," he said.

Officers tested him for alcohol, but none was detected, according to a report. Police reports note officers found extra ammunition for the revolver, a map and binoculars in the front of Hackbarth's vehicle. The lawmaker said the binoculars were there -- as was other hunting equipment in the back of his red Ford pickup -- from a deer hunting trip the weekend before.

Hackbarth has no criminal record. Police found his name in a criminal database as an alias for Paul Joseph Hackbarth. Tom Hackbarth told police that was his brother, who was killed about six years ago in Illinois during a bank robbery.

Hackbarth, who easily won re-election over Democrat Laurie Olmon, said he doesn't believe the incident should reflect poorly on his leadership.

"Absolutely not," he said. "I understand why the police and the security guard thought what they might have thought, but it really was insignificant to me."

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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