By Ryan Gueningsman
WATERTOWN TOWNSHIP, MN In a time when gun control and rights are the topics of many conversations, a Watertown Township man, who was convicted of shooting and killing his mother when he was 14 years old, was taken into custody for being in possession of multiple firearms.
Christian Phillip Oberender, 32, who has a Delano address in northern Watertown Township, was arrested Jan. 2 for being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm, according to a formal complaint filed in Carver County.
In January 1996, Oberender was found delinquent for second-degree murder after having shot and killed his mother, Mary Oberender, with a shotgun, according to the complaint. He was also civilly committed as a “mentally ill and dangerous person,” Dec. 1, 1998, according to the complaint.
The Carver County Sheriff’s Office received a report Dec. 31, 2012, that Oberender had posted pictures of himself on Facebook holding several assault rifles and sympathizing with the Columbine, CO and Newton, CT shooters. The person making the report stated concern Oberender may hurt the person’s child or others.
When detectives looked at Oberender’s Facebook page, they saw images of a .45 caliber rifle and a fully-loaded .45 caliber drum magazine, according to the complaint.
Deputies who received the initial report were aware of Oberender’s past, according to Carver County Chief Deputy Jason Kamerud. They checked Oberender’s criminal history to determine if Oberender had any “disqualifiers” for possessing firearms. His criminal history did not show any disqualifiers, according to Kamerud.
When Carver County Sheriff Jim Olson saw the notes on the incident the next morning, it sent up a red flag with him.
“The sheriff was one of the detectives on the case in 1995,” Kamerud said. “He had a lot more knowledge of the case than the deputies who took the call.”
Kamerud said they needed access to court records, and had to wait until after the Jan. 1 holiday to obtain what was needed. It was learned the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) did not have a fingerprint card from Oberender from 1995, and there wasn’t a case disposition both of which are needed to generate a criminal record.
“Without those two things, there won’t be a record,” Kamerud said. He added since that time, Oberender’s fingerprint card and case disposition have both been sent to the BCA, leading to the records being modified and to Oberender being disqualified from purchasing firearms.
Authorities executed a search warrant at Oberender’s residence Jan. 2, and Oberender agreed to provide a statement. He told authorities he owns about 10 to 13 guns, including an assault rifle, three shotguns, four or five pistols, and a “Tommy gun,” according to the complaint.
A search of Oberender’s bedroom produced 13 firearms and ammunition, including several shotguns, an AK-47 assault rifle, a handgun, and several pistols.
“Any purchasing of guns by him was never legal,” Kamerud said, but added that it may have been possible due to the disqualifiers not being in place.
A call was received by the sheriff’s office in July 2011 of shooting taking place in the backyard of Oberender’s residence, Kamerud said.
“They live in the township. It’s not illegal to shoot there,” Kamerud said. At that time, deputies checked Oberender’s background and found juvenile records had been sealed.
“All indications were his civil rights had been restored,” Kamerud said. “We’re only as good as the information we have access to. If the record is inaccurate or non-existent, that’s how we make our decision.”
The search warrant also revealed a letter in a notebook addressed “Dear Mom,” which Oberender admitted writing. Evidence led authorities to believe the letter was written within the last two months.
Included in the letter were several passages, including, “I feel the good part of me fade away. I don’t know how long I can hold it in for. Why god do I feel like this. I am so homicide. What is wrong with me. I think about killing all the time.”
Oberender also stated in the note the “monster want out” and said, “I know what happens when he comes out. He only been out one time and someone die.”
In the note, Oberender said he looks at things and thinks about how he can use them as weapons, including tools at his workplace.
He said there “is so much pain in my heart and soul” and that he wants others to feel it, according to the complaint.
“We believe him to be a very dangerous person, which is why we are pursuing prosecution and confinement,” Kamerud said.
“The note was chilling,” Carver County Sheriff Jim Olson said.
Oberender was charged with felony-level possession of a pistol/assault weapon after being previously adjudicated delinquent or convicted as an extended jurisdiction juvenile for committing a crime of violence.
He was also charged with a gross misdemeanor possession of a pistol/assault weapon after being previously committed in Minnesota by a judicial determination that he was mentally ill and dangerous to the public.
If found guilty of the felony-level charge, Oberender faces a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment and/or a $30,000 fine. If found guilty of the gross misdemeanor charge, he faces one year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine.
As of Thursday afternoon, Oberender remained in custody in the Carver County Jail. Conditions of release are a $1 million bond, or $100,000 cash, according to Kamerud.
Reaction from local school districts
“Obviously, it’s a very serious situation,” said Delano Public Schools Superintendent Matt Schoen.
He said when Delano school officials were made aware of the situation, they took some immediate security measures including letting office staff know and increasing patrol around the school district by the Wright County Sheriff’s Office.
In the event Oberender is able to post bond and leave jail while awaiting trial, Schoen said all office staff will be made aware of who he is. Schoen said he has also requested to be informed ahead of time and know details of any possible release from custody.
“We’re going to get as much information as we can to prepare for that,” Schoen said. “We’d like him to stay where he is and get the assistance he needs in a safe environment.”
Schoen also has some questions regarding the situation, and said this is something school district administration is going to bring to legislators.
“People need to know that there are some laws in this state or country that aren’t being enforced,” Schoen said. “I’m not pointing a finger at law enforcement, but here’s a person who is high-risk and should not have been in possession. How come it took until now for this to come out?
“We can work hard to make our school districts as safe as possible, but we also depend on the enforcement of current laws in place to identify a potentially very serious threat.”
Kamerud said there is no direct connection in the case to either Watertown-Mayer Public School District or Delano Public School District. He said he met with the Watertown-Mayer administration, as well as some of Oberender’s neighbors, to share some information about this case.
He said the meeting took place at the school simply as a matter of convenience and a place to conduct such a meeting.
“We will continue to work with the school district to the extent they want us involved in helping them plan for security-preparedness sorts of things,” Kamerud said.
Olson said the sheriff’s office has gotten a lot of calls regarding this case.
“We’re also trying to track back exactly what happened,” Olson said, “and making sure there aren’t any others out there that are like this. It’s hard to track back exactly who, what, or why. It’s more why it was hanging out there for that long.”