Royalton, MN, police department possesses a grenade launcher it does not want or need

Categories: Guns, Police
grenadelauncher.jpg
Not in Royalton, Minnesota
Royalton is a small town in central Minnesota, population 1,242. The police department has one full-time officer and two part-timers. Between them you'll find the standard cop gear: guns, vests, uniforms. But also a grenade launcher.

A tad excessive? Adam Gunderson, the chief of police, wouldn't disagree.

See also:
Tracy, MN, a town of 2,100, possesses an armored vehicle for its two full-time cops


For years, surplus military equipment has trickled down to state, county, and local agencies as part of a free program offered through the U.S. Department of Defense. At least in the case of Royalton, that means equipment the town doesn't need.

Gunderson tells us that his grenade launcher -- intended to fire tear gas -- has languished in a safe for five years. It was included in a bundle of shotguns that the Clearwater County Sheriff's Office wanted to get rid of. Royalton, he says, accepted the little devil as part of an all-or-nothing deal. (The sheriff and one of his sergeants did not return our messages).

At the time, Gunderson says, the National Guard was in the midst of turning administration control of the program back over to the feds, so he couldn't simply return the grenade launcher. Today, he's waiting on paperwork to go through so that he can pass the weapon along to an agency "that's actually going to be able to use it."

Last week, the New York Times published data (obtained by MuckRock) showing that just about every corner of Minnesota has received some equipment from the feds. The newspaper broke down the numbers by county. However, the Star Tribune went further, showing which agencies received what. Reporter Mark Brunswick noted, "The Pentagon offers no training for these weapons. Some police departments admit to having few ready uses for them."

Indeed, when we called around last week, several agencies told us that much of the equipment remains in storage. Sgt. John Eastham, a spokesman for the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office, says 40 pistols go untouched and another 19 M14 rifles are used only for ceremonial events. What's more, the sheriff is "actively trying to decommission" the county's armored vehicle, because it doesn't work and getting it back into shape would cost more than it's worth.

Royalton doesn't need a grenade launcher, but the town's chief of police defends the right of law enforcement agencies to possess military hand-me-downs. "When you're dealing with criminals you're dealing with a whole other element," he says. "You don't know what they're capable of -- whether they have weapons or homemade explosives or whatever."

Of course, the program offers more than battle-tested instruments of destruction. Gunderson highlights more practical pieces of equipment that have come into his possession, such as cameras and refurbished laptops. For the sole cost of shipping, he gets computers that would normally cost $600 to $800 -- a savings for local taxpayers.

"I think the news media, with everything going on [in Ferguson], are just focusing on the military vehicles and weaponry," he says. "And that's not what the program is."

Judge for yourself.

-- Send story tips to the author or follow him on Twitter @marxjesse


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58 comments
Sean Frazer
Sean Frazer

WTF , how do you serve and protect w/a goddamn grenade launcher. Maybe I should read about first before comment, just my initial thought.

Grant Endres
Grant Endres

I have a pocket knife. I carry it with me wherever I go. I may not use it every single day but, sometimes things you don't use every day come in handy. Just sayin'....

Darin McDonald
Darin McDonald

When did City Pages turn from your entertainment calendar and personal ads, to hard hitting news?

Rachelle Hoeft
Rachelle Hoeft

It appears to me that people are making comments suggesting that CP is exaggerating or making stuff up based on only reading the headline. Read the article before you comment or you sound stupid. First, headlines are meant to catch your attention and then you read the article for the details. It says in the article it's for tear gas not grenades. Also the picture used is obviously intended for humor. Too many people are quick to criticizes; get off your defense high horse.

Jeanna Miller
Jeanna Miller

Oh man, I have a brother that is SO hard to shop for...he has everything...this would make the perfect Christmas gift.....

Tyler Chip Moody Suter
Tyler Chip Moody Suter

What? How is my comment somehow being skewed into advocacy for arming police departments with military grade weapons. I am simply against irresponsible reporting, which is what this headline and photograph represents.

Pinko Thinker
Pinko Thinker

maybe they could sell the grenade launcher to an area elementary school and use the proceeds to invest in a literacy program for twitchy internetters at large, in that case.

Gabriel Millerd
Gabriel Millerd

Huge exaggeration with this picture "Gunderson tells us that his grenade launcher -- intended to fire tear gas -- has languished in a safe for five years"

Julie Peters Krohn
Julie Peters Krohn

Is the military really just using these small towns as "storage facilities?" I.e. In case of a "major event" not wanting everything In one location? Could be a liability, though...easier access for the wrong people.

Jon Boyle
Jon Boyle

I'd rather have my money spent on training and pay checks than stupid gadgets that are not at all useful in a small town (i.e. Minneapolis) law-enforcement situation.

Allisen Waage
Allisen Waage

If you've never been to Royalton you wouldn't know why this is so ridiculous.

Anthony Christensen
Anthony Christensen

Gotta shoot rubber grenades and tear gas with somethin lmao police state bullshit. Prepare for the take over everyone.

Linda Smith
Linda Smith

If they have it, they're more likely to try to find some insane reason to use it. Fireworks launcher next 4th of July perhaps?

Pebbles Cotton
Pebbles Cotton

How do you know? Can anyone believe anything the press reports anymore? I feel a lot of times they just make shit up.

Jeff Huinker
Jeff Huinker

I dunno. Sometimes I get filled with rage while being held up by their stop light for miles. I just might go off, you guys.

Nick Orlick
Nick Orlick

That's not a grenade launcher. That's a M202 FLASH. That shoots rockets. The grenade launcher shoots CS gas. Nice try city pages.

Aaron Nelson
Aaron Nelson

You say that now. When the robots come, you will be glad we have that grenade launcher.

Chad Howard
Chad Howard

Again Jesse Marxs misses the mark in his pictures.....What Arnold has is a missile launcher.....not grenade.....much like yesterday's "Tank" which was an unarmored Humvee..... good try again Jesse

Chad Howard
Chad Howard

Funny that launcher can also be used to send tear gas, illuminating or other non explosive rounds at targets

Tim Thorn
Tim Thorn

I hope you're being sarcastic Bill.

Michael Marshall
Michael Marshall

I'll bet this is as accurate as your bogus armored vehicle story the other day. Just stop already, City Pages. Seriously.

Tyler Chip Moody Suter
Tyler Chip Moody Suter

Are you for real, Brock? There are definitely claims to be made about police use of force, but not with tear gas. I was an innocent bystander at one of the Gophers hockey championship "celebrations", and tear gas was definitely necessary. Nevertheless, the photo of Arnold launching a missile, and no qualifier in the title, changes the perception greatly, especially since nobody reads articles anymore.

Alex P Kermes
Alex P Kermes

On the other hand, cops would probably be less willing to shoot people if they ditched handguns and carried only grenade launchers. Especially at close range.

Bill Seurer
Bill Seurer

If police in small town America can't have grenade launchers and armored vehicles then the terrorists have won!

Trey Brock
Trey Brock

Cops don't need to use tear gas on American citizens.

Krissy Striefel
Krissy Striefel

How stupid, no police dept should have this especially the way they have been acting a fun is enough.

Bill Murashie
Bill Murashie

Edina has P90s but sometimes sub machine guns are the only way to handle soccer moms and the elderly.

Ima B. Musing
Ima B. Musing

Military Industrial Complex (Malcolm Moos, former President of the U who grew up in St. Paul, penned this concept)

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