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Convicted shooter sentenced to 50 years in prison

Ahmed Hirsi, 27, was sentenced Friday in St. Croix County Circuit Court to 50 years in prison. He was convicted in May of three counts of attempted first-degree homicide. (Hudson Star-Observer photo by Mike Longaecker)

The man convicted of opening fire on a carload of people last year in Hudson was sentenced Friday in St. Croix County Circuit Court to 50 years in prison.

The prison term for Minneapolis resident Ahmed Hirsi is to be followed by 35 years on extended supervision, according to presiding Judge James Peterson’s sentence.

“You are, I would consider, a very dangerous man,” Peterson said at the hearing.

Hirsi was convicted May 1 by a St. Croix County jury of 13 felonies, including three counts of first-degree attempted homicide after a weeklong trial. He was accused of being the gunman in a Jan. 19, 2014, triple shooting outside the Spirit Seller liquor store.

Three people inside a vehicle parked there were wounded by gunfire in the incident. Authorities said Hirsi opened fire on the car as part of a gang-related incident triggered by a verbal argument with a woman inside the vehicle. She sustained the worst injuries and will be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life, St. Croix County Deputy District Attorney Michael Nieskes said Friday.

“This is a public safety issue,” he said in recommending a sentence that Peterson later agreed to. “We have someone who tried to take the lives of three people, by the jury’s determination.”

Authorities said Hirsi and another man -- who would emerge as prosecution’s star witness during the trial -- fled Hudson for Minnesota, where he allegedly changed clothes and attempted to stash ammunition that authorities said matched the slugs used in the shooting.

Hirsi was arrested later on Jan. 19, 2014, in Eagan, Minn.

Nieskes said Hirsi received the fair trial that he “demanded and asked for.” The facts presented in the case left no question in his mind -- or Peterson’s.

“The evidence certainly supports the jury’s verdict,” said Peterson, a Dunn County Circuit Court judge who also presided over Hirsi’s trial.

Hirsi maintained his innocence throughout the trial. That didn’t change Friday, where he -- as in trial, acting as his own attorney -- declined to make a statement. He said he’s already working on his next legal steps.

“I’m trying to appeal this case,” Hirsi said.

Peterson said that he had designs on an even harsher sentence than the 50 years he ultimately settled on.

“I was thinking of substantially more,” he said, adding that prosecution’s recommendation seemed appropriate.

He attempted to impress upon Hirsi the gravity of his crimes.

“But for some luck, you very well could have become a mass murderer,” Peterson told Hirsi. “The level of depravity in this crime is almost unimaginable.”

The judge made clear that his sentence was a reflection of the seriousness of the crime and the need to protect the public.

“I don’t know if rehabilitation is in the cards,” Peterson said.

He also pointed out that Hirsi’s crimes in Hudson were committed about a month after he had been released from a prison term in Minnesota.

Hirsi served that term for his role in a group assault of a good Samaritan at a Minnesota gas station, Nieskes explained. He said the victim was attempting to defend a clerk at the store who had been the target of harassment by the group Hirsi was part of.

Nieskes laid out other crimes in Hirsi’s past, including an assault on his own mother, the theft of a purse and, most recently, a jail assault to which he has already pleaded guilty.

“It’s not like he’s had a history of good conduct,” Nieskes said at the hearing. “He is not a novice to the criminal justice system.”

Under the sentence, Hirsi would be locked up until just after his 76th birthday. He would remain on extended supervision into his 106th year.

In addition to the prison time and extended supervision, Hirsi was also ordered by Peterson to make $60,525 in restitution payments and a $7,384 fine. More than $56,000 of that amount goes to cover the medical costs incurred by the female victim left wheelchair-bound by the shooting.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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