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Willmar man changes plea after Minn. Supreme Court ruling

WILLMAR -- The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled last week that a BB gun is not a firearm when it comes to Minnesota's statute barring felons from possessing a firearm. The ruling was not sweeping. But it did move a Willmar man to change his plea in ...

WILLMAR - The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled last week that a BB gun is not a firearm when it comes to Minnesota's statute barring felons from possessing a firearm.

The ruling was not sweeping. But it did move a Willmar man to change his plea in an assault case.

Jacob Thomas Dahlheimer, 29, is alleged to have threatened residents May 23 while showing a BB gun in his waistband.

The criminal complaint alleged Dahlheimer "appearing intoxicated and agitated," had climbed into a woman's vehicle outside her residence, took out a handgun and silently pointed it at her head. The woman's young son was also in the vehicle at the time.

Police apprehended Dahlheimer at a home in southwest Willmar after a suspicious person report by an "alert citizen" who followed Dahlheimer while feeding tips to police.

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Dahlheimer was charged April 25 in Kandiyohi County District Court with second-degree assault, domestic assault, two counts of threats of violence and possessing a firearm as an ineligible person, all felonies, for the chain of events that allegedly transpired that day.

In August, Dahlheimer had pleaded guilty to a single charge: possessing a firearm as an ineligible person.

That was the charge affected by last week's Minnesota Supreme Court ruling. Dahlheimer had been charged as if he had been wrongfully in possession of a firearm.

In fact, he had been carrying a BB gun made to look like a handgun. Before last week, the court had always held that a BB gun was a firearm, therefore illicit for ineligible persons as defined by statute.

But the court decided last week that the word firearm had been interpreted "unconstitutionally vague" in the past. Under the "plain and ordinary meaning" of the word firearm, justices ruled, a BB gun is not a "firearm" because it does not use explosive force.

They referenced other statutes that plainly prohibit "gun(s) of any kind" or "airguns," "suggesting that when the Legislature intends to refer broadly to guns... it knows how to do so."

The ruling implied that the Supreme Court would leave any necessary change of legal language to the Legislature, saying it is not up to the courts to change the law, just apply it.

Effectively, that means persons in the state deemed ineligible to possess "firearms" can now legally possess BB guns.

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So last week, Dahlheimer withdrew his plea, just one day after the Supreme Court ruling in State v. Haywood.

Dahlheimer asserted a new plea Tuesday to felony domestic assault at what was originally his sentencing hearing.

As part of the new plea deal, he was released from jail and will receive credit for time served. His new sentencing hearing is set for Nov. 29.

Related Topics: CRIME
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