Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.
A former Marine who fired more than 20 rounds from a military-style assault rifle at two people he let into his downtown St. Paul apartment last spring was sentenced Tuesday to three decades in prison.
With his family and fellow Marines seated behind him, Scott Klund, 30, showed no outward display of emotion as Ramsey County District Judge John Guthmann sentenced the Duluth native to nearly 33 years in prison.
A jury found Klund guilty in February of second-degree murder and second-degree attempted murder for opening fire inside the Parkside apartment building in Lowertown on May 7.
Charlotte Rawls, a 52-year-old mother of two and grandmother of nine, died in the shooting, which Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Thomas Ring described as an “ambush.”
Ray Gruer, 31, suffered multiple gunshot wounds but survived.
The sentence fell between what both sides sought during the sentencing hearing Tuesday.
Pointing to combat service in Afghanistan and the toll it took on his mental health, defense attorney Elizabeth Switzer argued Tuesday that Klund should be sentenced to probation for his conduct. Switzer pointed out that he had no criminal record and was reacting according to military training to a perceived threat in his home when he opened fire on Rawls and Gruer.
Ring disputed that claim. He said Klund’s actions were indefensible regardless of where they took place. He went on to highlight Klund’s characterization of Rawls’ death as “collateral damage” after the fact to police as evidence of the “unusual cruelty” in his actions.
Ring asked Guthmann to sentence him to at least 38 years and up to 45.
Klund defended his actions one last time before Guthmann delivered his sentence.
After quoting a Bible verse, he stood up and addressed the court:
“I believe it is every person’s God-given right to protect themselves” in their own home, Klund said, before adding that he did that when he shot and killed Rawls and injured Gruer.
He relied on the means available to him at the time, Klund continued, including his rifle and military training, to protect himself.
If he hadn’t done so,“I truly believe I would not be alive today,” Klund said. “I am a good person that got caught up in a bad situation that resulted in someone’s death.”
He added that he was deeply saddened that Rawls died, and said her death haunts him. He hopes her family can someday forgive him, Klund said.
Rawl’s daughter, Athena Lund, scoffed at that notion from her seat in the courtroom.
In explaining his sentence, Guthmann said he took into account Klund’s “honorable” service to his country and the psychological toll it had taken on him. But he added that neither justified his conduct on May 7, he said.
Guthmann added that Klund was not diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in the wake of his service, but instead a less serious mental condition.
“You methodically fired 24 high-powered rounds … at a trapped and defenseless (person) … and at Ms. Rawls as she was running away from you,” Guthmann said.
“The right to defend your home does not include (shooting) people who pose no threat,” he said.
Rawls’ daughter declined to comment after the sentencing hearing, as did the prosecution and defense attorneys.
Klund’s family and friends also declined comment.
Klund met Rawls and Gruer in the early-morning hours of May 7 when he stopped at SuperAmerica for some chips after closing time at the nearby Bulldog bar. Gruer said Rawls asked Klund for a cigarette as he was leaving the gas station. Without one on him, Klund reportedly invited Rawls and Gruer back to his apartment.
Klund maintained at trial that he couldn’t recall how the three ended up at his place, but said Gruer’s story didn’t add up because he quit smoking months earlier.
Shortly after the three arrived, Klund fired several shots at Gruer while Gruer was barricaded inside the bathroom. He shot and killed Rawls as she ran toward the living room.
At trial, Ring described the shooting as an unprovoked assault by the “strong” against the “weak”; a military veteran armed with a gun against the “defenseless.”
Klund’s defense team — Switzer and attorney Aaron Haddorff — said the former Marine was acting in self-defense against two conniving methamphetamine addicts who had “weaseled” their way into his home to rob him with a knife.
Gruer, who testified at trial, said Klund’s attack was unprovoked and denied that neither he nor Rawls attempted to rob him.
Mother, grandmother remembered
Rawls was a grandmother and mother who grew up in North Carolina and moved to Minnesota several years ago.
Described at the trial as homeless, Rawls’ relatives said she had been staying at different friends’ houses at the time of her death as she waited for her Social Security check.
She was described in court Tuesday as someone who always looked for the good in people and trusted easily, according to a letter written by her mother and read aloud by Ring.
He also read a letter written by Lund, Rawls’ daughter.
She recalled the unforgettable knock on her door that came the day before Mother’s Day last year. It was police delivering news of her mom’s death.
“My mother was taken away for no reason … described as collateral damage,” the letter said.
It went on to describe the daily grief her family lives with.
“I think about her every day,” the letter read. “Life seems different now.”
Gruer also remembered Rawls with remarks read at the hearing.
The two had known each other for years and were romantically involved at the time of her death.
“There are no words that can describe” the physical and emotional pain he’s experienced since the shooting, Gruer said.
Klund reached the rank of corporal while on active duty with the Marine Corps from 2007 to 2011. He was deployed three times, including once to Afghanistan, where he helped provide protection to civilians against the Taliban.
One of his fellow Marines testified at trial about the many casualties he and Klund encountered during their service.
Klund saw three of his friends killed in combat and suffered his own injuries from shrapnel, according to court documents.
He was diagnosed upon his return with “trauma or stressor-related disorder” and had received sporadic treatment for his condition in recent years, court documents say.
©2017 the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.)