Daudt speaks out after gun incident

Published 2:18 pm Thursday, January 23, 2014

ST. PAUL — The top Republican in the Minnesota House said Wednesday he intends to stay in his leadership post, and believes he properly handled an incident last September in Montana where a friend pulled out the lawmaker’s loaded handgun after a vehicle purchase went bad.

Rep. Kurt Daudt, of Crown, broke nearly two weeks of silence about the incident. It was first reported by KSTP-TV after Daudt refused repeated interview requests from multiple news outlets, including The Associated Press. Daudt and a friend had traveled to Montana so Daudt could pick up an antique truck he purchased on eBay, but after driving it for a few miles they decided to return it and complain to the vehicle seller that he’d misrepresented its condition.

“Hindsight is 20-20,” Daudt told the AP on Wednesday. “I probably would have walked away from the sale at a few different points when things weren’t looking good or feeling good. I kept wanting to believe that it would eventually be OK.”

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Instead, when the situation grew tense, Daudt’s friend walked back to their vehicle and returned with Daudt’s loaded gun. Daudt said his friend displayed it “for about two or three seconds,” and he quickly tried to defuse the situation.

Police stopped the two men a few miles down the road. Court records said Daudt was handcuffed and briefly placed under arrest, though Daudt disputes that.

Daudt’s friend, 24-year-old Daniel Weinzetl, faces felony charges of criminal assault and endangerment. He has had previous run-ins with the law, including a conviction for assaulting a police officer. Court records say he waved Daudt’s gun in the presence of the seller, his wife and two children.

Weinzetl has not responded to interview requests. A listed phone number rang unanswered Wednesday. Daudt said Weinzetl’s family lives near his cabin in the Cambridge area and that Weinzetl and his brother have helped him with odd jobs.

A working number for the truck’s seller could not be located. Daudt kept the truck.

The Republican also said he has a handgun permit and rarely carries the gun, but brought it for safety on the long road trip.

Daudt, 40, discussed the incident with House Republican colleagues and said he believes he has put any lingering concerns to rest. He also met with GOP leaders in his legislative district on Tuesday, Minnesota Public Radio and the Star Tribune reported.

The newspaper said a “no confidence” vote had been planned before Daudt showed up, with District 31 Republican Party chairman Dan Denno saying, “We feel that he does not have our best interest in mind.” But after the meeting, local Republicans told the Star Tribune that they were happy with his explanation of the incident in Montana.

Daudt said he didn’t reveal the September incident because he wasn’t sure if it was appropriate to bring up an ongoing legal proceeding; he could be called back to testify if the case goes that far.

“It didn’t feel like it was relevant to me or to my job performance,” Daudt said.