BUFFALO, MINN. — As victims of a shooting attack described their pain and terror, the man accused of causing it refused to look at them.
Gregory Ulrich laid his head on a courtroom table and wrapped his arms around it, refusing to look up even once as victims described the Feb. 9, 2021, attack on the Allina Health Buffalo Clinic.
He also kept his head down as prosecutors played two short videos Ulrich made in the weeks before the attack, including one in which he threatened to “grab a pistol and go down there and kill as many … nurses as you can.”
Throughout the trial, now in its third week, Ulrich has sat attentively at the table with his lawyers, taking notes and occasionally whispering to them. Not on Tuesday.
Before the jury was brought in, Ulrich told the judge that he was in great pain and would prefer to lie down outside the courtroom.
“Pain is the most powerful drug,” Ulrich told Wright County District Judge Catherine McPherson. “I might as well be on heroin. I’m all mixed up and I need some pain medication so I can talk and think about it.”
“Mr. Ulrich, I would like you to be present in court today,” McPherson replied. “You do seem able to talk and you’re speaking logically.”
McPherson ordered Ulrich to remain in the courtroom, whereupon he buried his head in his arms and didn’t look up once during two hours of testimony.
First to testify was Jennifer Gibson, a medical assistant at the clinic. She shared an office space with Lindsay Overbay, a medical assistant who died in the attack.
Gibson heard “a loud metallic bang” around 10:55 that morning and looked down the hallway to see a man with a gun. She heard more bangs and ran outside, where she lay on the ground, bleeding from a gunshot wound in her thigh, and played dead in temperatures around 5 below zero.
After police arrived, she was treated to stabilize her wound and had the bullet removed several days later. Since the attack, Gibson testified, she’s been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and has seen a therapist weekly.
“It is a struggle to do daily things,” she said, and she’s always scared of a bad situation suddenly developing.
Antonya Fransen-Pruden, a registered nurse, walked to the witness stand with a slight limp. It’s a lingering effect of being shot in the back during the attack, she testified.
Fransen-Pruden was in the lobby of the clinic when the gunman, identified by many witnesses as Ulrich, allegedly shot a coworker and then shot her.
As she lay under a desk where she’d dragged herself, she heard him call 911 and tell the dispatcher to “send a lot of ambulances. There are a lot of spinal injuries and I have bombs that are about to go off.”
Fransen-Pruden spent 10 days in the hospital being treated for injuries to her spine, colon, ovaries and Fallopian tubes. She still has a bullet in her pelvis.
She testified that she’s nervous in public or when she sees older men, especially if they have their hands in their pockets.
Jurors also heard testimony from Manissa Patel, owner of the Super 8 motel where Ulrich stayed during the week before the attack. On the day before the shootings, Patel testified, she asked Ulrich if he wanted to switch from a daily to a weekly rate.
“He said, ‘No, my work will be done,’ ” Patel testified.
After the two victims testified, prosecutors played two short videos made by Ulrich in December 2020, about six weeks before the attack.
“They’re gonna find out what happens” when they mess with “a good Christian man,” Ulrich said in the first video. “You picked on the wrong person.”
In the second video, recorded on Christmas Day, Ulrich said that pain causes people to become angry and violent.