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Perham man sentenced for June firearm incident

Joseph John Wasche, 42, of Perham was sentenced in Carlton County Court on Nov. 24 for the reckless discharge of a firearm and carrying a firearm while under the influence of alcohol.

Judge Robert Macaulay Jr. sentenced Wasche to 90 days in jail, stayed for one year; a $500 fine and $80 in court fees along with one year of supervised probation. Wasche was also ordered to refrain from drinking alcohol prior to or during the use of a firearm. A chemical assessment conducted earlier on Wasche resulted in no recommendation for treatment. Judge Macaulay also agreed to leave restitution in the case open until Jan. 31, 2011.

When asked if he had any statements to the court, Wasche requested the return of his firearm. Judge Macaulay stated that if the firearm had merely been retained as evidence for the period of the investigation, Wasche should be able to get it back.

Since Wasche had a permit to carry a concealed weapon at the time of the incident, it will be up to the issuing agent to determine if that permit will be rescinded. In this case, that will be the sheriff of Otter Tail County where Wasche resides.

According to court documents regarding the incident, Dispatch received a call at 8:46 p.m. on Wednesday, June 16, from a motorist who reported the windshield of his automobile had been nicked by a gunshot while he was driving along Highway 45 in the vicinity of Andy's Auto Body between Cloquet and Carlton.

The complainant told officers he had heard two loud pops and then something hit the window of his car. He then discovered there was a gouge in the windshield of his vehicle.

Sheriff's deputies then searched along an old road that parallels Highway 45 and the bike/walking trail that goes from the Park and Ride lot to Carlton.

Deputy Jason Warnygora located a pickup truck on the abandoned road and spotted a male individual standing along the road. The man told the deputy he was "doing a little target practice and letting off a little steam after work." The deputy noticed the man, later identified as Wasche, was carrying a .45-calibre handgun on his right hip. Upon further examination, the deputy discovered the gun was loaded and the accompanying magazine had eight remaining rounds in it. He also learned that Wasche had an up-to-date permit to carry a pistol in the state of Minnesota.

As the investigation continued, documents noted, Wasche told the officer he was firing the pistol at tin cans located in the opposite direction from the public roadway. Upon further questioning, however, he admitted to shooting three rounds into an abandoned air conditioner that lay on the ground in the direction of Highway 45. In all, Wasche admitted to firing off 30 rounds of ammunition.

During the course of conversation, the deputy noted what appeared to be an odor of alcohol coming from Wasche and instructed one of the other officers to administer a test to determine his blood alcohol level. The field test indicated a preliminary blood alcohol content of .040, according to documents - a level prohibited under the terms of permits to carry weapons in the state of Minnesota.

Originally, Wasche was charged with misdemeanors because the location of the incident was thought to be outside the city limits. However, GPS readings subsequently determined the incident involving Wasche actually occurred within the city limits of Cloquet.

It is a felony offense to fire a gun within the city limits of a municipality, so the misdemeanor charges were dismissed and Wasche was then charged at the felony level. In a subsequent plea bargain, however, Wasche was ultimately sentenced for a misdemeanor-level charge.

State crime records show that Wasche has, in the past, been charged with reckless use of a firearm in Otter Tail County.