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Competency evaluation ordered for 18-year-old charged with threatening Paynesville, Minnesota, school

Matthew Paul Herr-Ramirez will undergo a competency evaluation before the criminal case against him proceeds. Herr-Ramirez was arrested Oct. 17 for allegedly threatening to shoot people at his high school. He is currently on conditional release.

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ST. CLOUD — An 18-year-old student accused of making threats at Paynesville Area High School will be evaluated for competency to proceed in the criminal case.

Meghan Bork, public defender for Matthew Paul Herr-Ramirez, made the request Wednesday to Judge William J. Cashman in a virtual hearing in Stearns County District Court. The Stearns County Attorney's Office had no objections, and the judge's order was filed the same day.

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Matthew Paul Herr-Ramirez
Contributed: Stearns County Sheriff's Office.

According to the Minnesota Judicial Branch website, competency evaluations occur when there is a belief that a defendant "was not responsible at the time of the alleged offense because of mental illness or developmental disability.”

Herr-Ramirez is charged with five felony counts of threats of violence. The criminal case proceedings are now on hold pending the competency examination.

Herr-Ramirez was arrested Oct. 17 at his home in Grove City after he allegedly made threats about shooting people at school. According to the criminal complaint, law enforcement found an airsoft gun, a gun that shoots non-lethal plastic pellets, on him.

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The threats were allegedly made on Oct. 14 and Oct. 17. One juvenile witness said Herr-Ramirez allegedly identified three Paynesville Area High School staff members and a student he wanted to shoot, according to the complaint.

An order for an examination for mental illness or cognitive impairment was also filed Wednesday, but that exam will be conducted only if Herr-Ramirez is deemed competent to stand trial.

Matthew Paul Herr-Ramirez was arrested Monday at his home in Grove City after he had allegedly told other students at Paynesville Area High School his plans about carrying out a school shooting. According to the criminal complaint, Herr-Ramirez allegedly identified three staff members and a student as potential targets, and told a witness that he would continue shooting random students and staff.

According to that order, defense counsel notified the Stearns County Attorney's that it intends to assert a mental illness or cognitive impairment defense.

Family court records in an unrelated case show that an assessment of Herr-Ramirez was conducted for his functional and developmental needs in 2016.

According to the Minnesota Department of Human Services website, that type of assessment is used to plan for supports for people with any type of disability or other need for long-term services.

A social worker’s report in the same matter indicates Herr-Ramirez was receiving individual therapy, medication management and special education services at that time.

Herr-Ramirez was released Oct. 21 from the Stearns County Jail after a non-cash bond of $100,000 was posted.

Conditions for his release include exclusion from Paynesville Area High School, an order of no contact with any of the alleged victims, and that he not reside in any location that possesses firearms.

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The next court hearing is currently scheduled for Jan. 23, 2023.

Dale Morin is a reporter with the West Central Tribune. He covers public safety and breaking news beats.

Dale can be reached at dmorin@wctrib.com or by phone 320-214-4368.
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