A Minnesota Republican lawmaker who was handcuffed and questioned by police after loitering with a gun near a Planned Parenthood clinic has been stripped of his leadership roles in the Minnesota House.
Security cameras recorded State House Rep. Tom Hackbarth as he was stopped by police last week after a security guard at a Planned Parenthood location in St. Paul called to report a man loitering with a handgun visible at his side.
Hackbarth, who was not arrested and has a concealed-carry permit, says it was all a big misunderstanding. He told police he was looking for a woman he met online.
“Officers at the scene, however, suspected him of ‘stalking-like behavior’ and borderline ‘harassment or terroristic threats,’ so they hung on to his weapon,” the St. Paul Pioneer-Press reports.
Hockbarth says the woman had told him she was having dinner with a female friend in the city’s Highland Park area. Suspicious she may be seeing other men, Hockbarth says he went to Highland Park to look for her. He says he doesn’t know the area and didn’t realize he had parked in a Planned Parenthood parking lot.
According to NBC affiliate KARE, Hockbarth could not provide police with a phone number or address for the woman in question, nor could he provide an email address. He could only identify her as “Linda.”
The state GOP caucus says Hockbarth’s suspension from his leadership roles on House committees will remain in place until the issue is resolved. There are no charges pending the lawmaker, who was released by police after questioning.
According to CBS affiliate WCCO, “police say Hackbarth exhibited the behavior of a stalker: angry, looking for a woman, with a fully loaded gun.”
But Hockbarth denies he was acting out of jealousy. The Pioneer-Press reports:
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.”