St. Olaf student charged in alleged plot to commit ‘mass casualty event’

The student's notebooks contained a hand-drawn map of a recreational facility on campus which included arrows delineating a path of travel, apparently an exit path.

St. Olaf
Waylon Sieber Kurts/Rice County Sheriff's Office

A St. Olaf College student is facing several felony charges after authorities found weapons, accessories, and several other concerning items in his dorm room late last week.

Charges filed in Rice County District Court on Monday allege that Waylon Sieber Kurts, 20, of Montpelier, Vt., engaged in a conspiracy to commit acts of violence and was potentially planning a “mass casualty event.”

School authorities were first alerted on the morning of April 5 after custodial staff found empty packages for high-capacity magazines, one for a rifle (60 rounds), the other for a Glock pistol (24 rounds), in a garbage can outside the dorm rooms. Packaging addressed to Kurts was found in the garbage can but contained an off-campus address.

A subsequent search of Kurts’ room on campus was conducted where school authorities found knives, a tactical vest, a 24-round Glock pistol magazine, fireworks, lighter fluid, six propane canisters, a battery with wires, a lock pick set, shooting earmuffs, empty boxes from ammunition and gun magazines, as well as a note containing radio frequencies for St. Olaf Public Safety and a notebook with numerous writings.

The school’s public safety director met with Kurts following the search, and Kurts reported that he was a gun enthusiast and believed that the firearm equipment he had in his dorm room was within college policy, the criminal complaint says. Kurts also told school authorities that he stored his high-capacity magazines and ammunition off campus at a firearms-related business in Burnsville. Law enforcement later contacted the business which advised that they do not have storage lockers for people to store their firearms or ammunition. Employees did recognize photos of Kurts and said that he had been to
their range several times to shoot.

The public safety director asked Kurts if he could search Kurts’ vehicle. Kurts responded that it was off campus and that the director did not have authority to search his vehicle. Kurts reported that he would allow Northfield police to search the vehicle if they obtained
a warrant. When asked how he obtained the radio frequencies, Kurts reported that he had no idea but knew they were used by St. Olaf Public Safety. Kurts was suspended by the college and removed from campus at that point.

Charges say Kurts’ family in Vermont was contacted who reported that all of Kurts’ firearms were located in their home in Vermont and that Kurts didn’t do any shooting in Minnesota.

Kurts’ notebooks were further examined by law enforcement where they found a hand-drawn map of the Skoglund-Tostrud recreational facility on campus which included arrows delineating a path of travel, apparently an exit path. The page immediately prior to the map had been ripped out.

The notebook also contained a detailed plan to steal .308 ammunition from Walmart, including call signs, materials needed, and detailed actions to avoid detection. The plans involved three individuals and described, to the second, what needed to occur for a successful theft. The plan included the use of radios.

The notes also discussed details about radios and related equipment, as well as instructions on creating what Kurts labeled a “shoot house,” the complaint said.

The Northfield Police Department was contacted later in the day on Wednesday, April 5, and began searching for Kurts who did not return phone calls.

An alert to police was aired over Minneapolis dispatch just after 1 a.m. on Thursday, April 6, for officers to be on the lookout for a white Scion with Vermont plates. According to the dispatch, the vehicle was believed to contain weapons, knives, tactical vests, and explosives. The dispatcher said plans were found in the person’s dorm room to “shoot up schools and houses.”

Kurts was arrested on Thursday, April 6, at 1 p.m. outside an Edina business and was charged Monday with felony counts of conspiracy to commit second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit threats of violence, and terroristic threats, as well as a misdemeanor charge involving conspiracy to commit a theft.

Charges say Kurts’ vehicle and cellphone were seized pursuant to a warrant. A search of the phone revealed several text conversations with an unnamed co-conspirator. Some conversations involved discussing radios and listening to various frequencies. Several conversations involved firearms, including milling and drilling parts to build rifles. There were also conversations about shipping items to different locations so that packages would not be flagged as suspicious and wouldn’t make the school “freak out.”

One text message conversation included photos from Kurts showing a box that was full of rifle magazines on a bench on the St. Olaf campus with the text, “Kids’ve got no idea whats in here, haha [sic].” The two also discussed purchasing handguns from unlicensed sellers.

Inside Kurts’ vehicle, law enforcement found a small notebook with extensive notes on combat and guns, including notes that said, “Combat is much faster and closer than you think,” and, “The average door takes 2.5 kicks.”

Kurts made his first court appearance on Monday, and bail was set at $100,000. Court records show Kurts has retained a private attorney.

A document filed with the court from Assistant Rice County Attorney Kathryn M. Burbank stated that Kurts’ mother was planning to post a conditional release bail amount and planned to return with Kurts to their home in Vermont. Burbank asked the judge to request that Kurts’ family surrender their firearms to local Vermont authorities as Kurts has been ordered by the court not to possess firearms while charges are pending. The document states that defense counsel acknowledged that there are firearms in the Vermont family home, including an assault rifle.

A subsequent correspondence to the judge from Kurts’ attorney states that Kurts’ mother wants him to remain in custody while she returns to Vermont to “make sure that everything is safe.”

The Vermont home address listed on court documents for Kurts is the same as author Woden Teachout of Vermont. The relationship between Kurts and Teachout could not be immediately confirmed.

Alpha News will continue to follow developments in this story.

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Minnesota Crime Watch & Information publishes news, info and commentary about crime, public safety and livability issues in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota.

 

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Minnesota Crime Watch & Information publishes news, info and commentary about crime, public safety and livability issues in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota.