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Brittany Lawonn, Published July 10 2009

Authorities examine Ritter’s firearms status

Authorities are investigating whether a man involved in a nearly nine-hour standoff with Fargo police Wednesday should have been able to legally possess the six firearms found inside his apartment.

Leonard Ritter, 55, was arrested about 8 p.m. after firing several rounds at a SWAT robot that breached his apartment door and jumping from his second-floor apartment balcony at 2433 20th Ave. S. in Fargo. He struggled with police, who deployed a Taser on him, and he suffered minor injuries during the course of his arrest.

Ritter was convicted in 1995 of terrorizing for a September 1994 incident in which he threatened police and neighbors. Several guns were found inside his apartment at the time. On Dec. 15, 1995, he received a misdemeanor sentence for the felony charge and five years of probation. It was revoked at one point for his failure to complete a psychological exam.

Prosecutors must now determine when his probation ended, Cass County State’s Attorney Birch Burdick said.

State law in North Dakota prohibits a person convicted of a felony offense involving violence or intimidation from owning or possessing a firearm within 10 years of the end of their probation.

Police found five long guns and one handgun inside Ritter’s apartment, Lt. Pat Claus said. If Ritter’s probation ended on Dec. 15, 2000, the 10-year restriction required by North Dakota law would be in place until Dec. 15, 2010.

Minnesota has a lifetime ban against any person owning or possessing firearms who has been convicted of a crime of violence, such as murder, serious assault terroristic threats, harassment or stalking, Clay County Attorney Brian Melton said. Ritter does not have any such convictions in Minnesota, however, terroristic threats is similar to a terrorizing charge in North Dakota.

Fargo police have recommended prosecutors charge Ritter with illegally possessing a firearm, as well as reckless endangerment, terrorizing and resisting arrest, Claus said.

Charges are expected to be filed today in Cass County District Court.

“There’s lots of ways to obtain firearms, and I’m not even talking illegal firearms,” Claus said. He added that can include private sales of firearms as a way to obtain them without undergoing a record check, which is typically performed at retail stores.

A Forum records search indicates that Ritter has obtained numerous hunting licenses in North Dakota from 2004 to 2008.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department does not check to see if an applicant has been convicted of a felony before issuing a license, said Paul Schadewald, the department’s chief of administrative services division.

“There’s no system or no way to check it,” Schadewald said.

The department does have a database available to see if someone is seriously delinquent on child support payments, which could make them ineligible to purchase hunting and fishing licenses, he said.

There is no question on the application about a felony conviction and it is not a hunting violation, he said.

Ritter did not return a message left at the jail.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Brittany Lawonn at (701) 241-5541