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Mass Shooters Exploited Gun Laws, Loopholes Before Carnage

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A man believed to be mass shooting suspect Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, who was escorted out of King Soopers in Boulder, Colorado in handcuffs after sustaining a gunshot to his right leg, is placed on a stretcher to be treated at a hospital Monday, March 22, 2021. Photo: Getty Images.

BOULDER, Co. (AP) — The suspect in the shooting at a Boulder, Colorado, supermarket was convicted of assaulting a high school classmate but still got a gun. The man accused of opening fire on three massage businesses in the Atlanta area bought his gun just hours before the attack — no waiting required.

They are just the latest suspected U.S. mass shooters to obtain guns because of limited firearms laws, background check lapses or law enforcement’s failure to heed warnings of concerning behavior.

In the wake of the shootings, which together left 18 people dead, President Joe Biden renewed calls for stronger gun laws — including banning assault weapons and expanding background checks. Many Republicans oppose the measures, and the National Rifle Association blasted the discussions as a rush to “politicize this horrific situation.”

A look at how suspects in recent mass shootings obtained guns, based on police accounts, court documents and contemporaneous reporting:

BOULDER, COLORADO: MARCH 22, 2021. 10 DEAD.

Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa bought a Ruger AR-556 pistol, a semi-automatic weapon with a 30-round capacity, on March 16, police said. Days earlier, a judge struck down an ordinance that banned assault rifles and high-capacity magazines in Boulder, citing a state law prohibiting local gun bans. A lawsuit challenging Boulder’s ordinances had the backing of the NRA, which said the ruling gave “law-abiding gun owners something to celebrate.” Alissa was prone to sudden rage and was convicted of misdemeanor assault and sentenced to probation for attacking a high school classmate, law enforcement officials and former associates said. It was not immediately known where Alissa purchased his gun or whether that incident came up on a background check. Had he been convicted of a felony, his purchase would’ve been barred under federal law. Alissa is charged with 10 counts of murder.

ATLANTA: MARCH 16, 2021. 8 DEAD

Robert Aaron Long purchased a 9 mm handgun just hours before going on a shooting rampage at three massage businesses in the Atlanta area, police said. A lawyer for the gun shop said it complies with federal background check laws. Georgia, like the majority of states, has no waiting period to obtain a gun. Long claimed to have a “sex addiction,” police said, and he spent time at an addiction recovery facility last year. Federal law bans guns for people who are “unlawful users of or addicted to a controlled substance” or who’ve been court ordered to a mental health or substance abuse treatment facility, but doesn’t mention treatment for other compulsions as a barrier to ownership. Long is charged with eight counts of murder.

MIDLAND, TEXAS, AUG. 31, 2019. 7 DEAD.

Seth Aaron Ator purchased an AR-style rifle through a private sale, allowing him to evade a federal background check, and fired it indiscriminately from his car into passing vehicles and shopping plazas. He also hijacked a mail truck, killing the driver. Ator had been blocked from getting a gun in 2014 after his background check was flagged because a court determined he was mentally ill, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the matter. Private sales, which account for up to 40 percent of all gun sales according to some estimates, are not subject to a federal background check and private sellers aren’t required to determine if a buyer is eligible to own a gun. Ator was killed by police.

DAYTON, OHIO: AUG. 4, 2019. 9 DEAD.

Connor Betts’ classmates said he was suspended in high school for compiling a “hit list” and a “rape list,” but authorities said there was nothing in his background that prevented him from purchasing the AR-15-style pistol used in the shooting at Ned Peppers Bar. Ohio law requires that sealed records of any juvenile crimes be expunged either after five years or once the offender turns 23. Betts, who was 24 at the time of the shooting, bought the gun online from a Texas dealer. It was then shipped to a Dayton-area firearms dealer, in accordance with federal law. Betts was killed by police.

EL PASO, TEXAS, AUG. 3, 2019. 23 DEAD.

Patrick Crusius bought an AK-47-style rifle and 1,000 rounds of hollow-point ammunition online 45 days before the Walmart attack, prosecutors said. A Crusius family lawyer said his mother raised concerns about the purchase in a call to police on June 27. Police said she asked if Crusius, who was 21 at the time, was old enough to buy a gun. Police said she was assured he was and that he’d qualify if he passed a background check. Police said she expressed concern only about his safety and said she’d seen no recent change in his behavior. Texas does not have the kind of “red flag law” that in other states allows courts to take guns from people posing immediate danger. Crusius posted a racist screed online just before the attack and appeared to target Mexicans. He’s charged with capital murder in Texas and federal hate crimes and firearms offenses.

VIRGINIA BEACH, VIRGINIA: MAY 31, 2019. 12 DEAD.

Former Virginia Beach city employee DeWayne Craddock legally purchased six firearms in the three years before he opened fire on a municipal building, including the two .45-caliber pistols used in the attack. An independent review of the shooting, commissioned by the City of Virginia Beach, found that Craddock displayed no warning signs or “prohibited behaviors associated with a pathway to violence,” and that he had no known history of mental health treatment. Craddock was killed by police.

THOUSAND OAKS, CALIFORNIA: NOV. 7, 2018. 12 DEAD.

Ian David Long, a former Marine machine gunner who served in Afghanistan, used a legally purchased .45-caliber pistol with an extended magazine in the shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill. California tried to outlaw high-capacity magazines, but a federal judge reversed that after a pro-gun group sued. Months before the shooting, sheriff’s deputies called to Long’s home found him acting irrationally, but a mental health specialist didn’t feel he needed to be involuntarily committed. California has a “red flag law,” but there’s no indication authorities sought a court order to take away Long’s guns. Long killed himself.

PITTSBURGH: OCT. 27, 2018. 11 DEAD.

Robert Gregory Bowers had a carry license and legally owned the Colt AR-15 SP1 and three Glock .357 handguns police said he used to kill worshipers at Tree of Life synagogue. Bowers spent months posting angry rants against Jews on Gab, a social media site favored by right-wing extremists. He also posted photos of his “glock family.” Just before the attack, he posted a screed against a Jewish organization that resettles refugees, saying: “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.” None of the rhetoric appeared to raise red flags. His case is pending.

SANTA FE, TEXAS: MAY. 18, 2018. 10 DEAD.

Dimitrios Pagourtzis, a 17-year-old student, used a shotgun and a .38-caliber handgun that his father purchased legally and stored in a closet at their home, authorities said. It wasn’t clear if his father knew he’d taken the guns. Prior to the attack, Pagourtzis posted a photo on social media of a T-shirt with the phrase “Born to Kill” and had writings indicating he planned to attack his high school. A judge sent him to a mental health facility after ruling he was incompetent to stand trial.

PARKLAND, FLORIDA: FEB. 14, 2018. 17 DEAD.

Nikolas Cruz legally purchased a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 rifle in February 2017 from a licensed dealer a few miles from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, authorities said. He’d been treated at a mental health clinic but hadn’t been there in more than a year. Federal law prohibits gun purchases if a court declares a person a “mental defective” or commits them to an institution, but not if the person seeks treatment voluntarily. Federal law allows people as young as 18 to buy semi-automatic weapons. Cruz was 19 at the time of the shooting. His trial has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TEXAS: NOV. 5, 2017. 25 DEAD.

Devin Patrick Kelley’s history of domestic abuse barred him from buying guns. He was able to because information about his crimes was never entered into a federal database used for background checks. The Air Force failed to follow rules requiring that it inform the FBI about his conduct. Kelley purchased four guns, including an AR-15-style rifle found at First Baptist Church, from licensed Texas and Colorado dealers over a four-year span. Kelley killed himself.

LAS VEGAS: OCT. 1, 2017. 58 DEAD.

Stephen Paddock purchased 33 of the 49 weapons found in his hotel room and at his homes in the year before he opened fire on a country music festival. Paddock passed all background checks. His gradual accumulation of guns went undetected because federal law doesn’t require licensed gun dealers to alert the government about rifle purchases. Paddock killed himself.

ORLANDO, FLORIDA: JUNE 12, 2016. 49 DEAD.

Omar Mateen purchased an AR-15-style rifle, a Sig Sauer MCX, and a handgun from a licensed dealer on separate days about a week before the Pulse nightclub attack. He passed a background check and had a security license that allowed him to be armed while on duty. The FBI investigated Mateen in 2013 and 2014 over co-workers’ concerns that he’d spoken about ties to terror groups. Neither inquiry led to charges. Even if he’d been placed on a terrorism watch list, Congress in 2015 rejected attempts to prevent people on the list from purchasing guns. Mateen was killed by police.

SAN BERNARDINO, CALIFORNIA: DEC. 2, 2015. 14 DEAD.

Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, used weapons the FBI said his neighbor, Enrique Marquez, legally purchased from a licensed dealer in 2011 and 2012. Marquez pleaded guilty to charges he conspired to provide support to terrorists and made false statements to acquire a firearm. He told investigators Farook asked him to buy the weapons because he would draw less attention. Farook and Malik were killed by police.

ROSEBURG, OREGON: OCT. 1, 2015. 10 DEAD.

Christopher Harper-Mercer and his family members legally purchased the handguns and rifle used in the Umpqua Community College shooting from a licensed dealer. Investigators found six guns at the college and eight at an apartment. Neighbors said Harper-Mercer and his mother went target shooting together. Harper-Mercer killed himself after he was wounded by police.

CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA: JUNE 17, 2015. 9 DEAD.

A drug arrest should’ve prevented Dylann Roof from purchasing the pistol he used at Emanuel AME Church, but a record-keeping error and background check delay enabled the transaction to go through. The FBI said a background check examiner never saw the arrest report because the wrong arresting agency was listed in state criminal history records. After three days, the gun dealer was legally permitted to complete the transaction. He was convicted and is on federal death row.

WASHINGTON, D.C.: SEPT. 16, 2013. 12 DEAD.

Aaron Alexis, a former reservist turned civilian contractor, passed background checks and legally purchased the shotgun used in the Washington Navy Yard shooting despite recent mental health treatment and a history of violent outbursts. He previously fired a gun in anger twice but wasn’t prosecuted in either case. Alexis was killed by police.

NEWTOWN, CONNECTICUT: DEC. 14, 2012. 26 DEAD.

Adam Lanza used his mother’s weapons, including a .223-caliber semi-automatic rifle, in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Lanza’s mother, whom he fatally shot before going to the school, also purchased the ammunition. Lanza killed himself.

AURORA, COLORADO: JULY 20, 2012. 12 DEAD.

James Holmes was receiving psychiatric treatment when he passed required federal background checks and legally purchased the weapons he used in his movie theater assault. As in the Parkland and Navy Yard cases, treatment alone did not prevent him from buying guns. He was convicted and sentenced to 12 life terms and thousands of years in prison.

Black Lives

Former Louisville Cop Pleads Guilty in Breonna Taylor Case

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FILE - This undated file photo provided by Taylor family attorney Sam Aguiar shows Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky. Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, was fatally shot by police in her Louisville, Ky., apartment in March 2020. A former Louisville police detective who helped write the warrant that led to the deadly police raid at Taylor's apartment has pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge. (Courtesy of Taylor Family attorney Sam Aguiar via AP, File)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A former Louisville police detective who helped falsify the warrant that led to the deadly police raid at Breonna Taylor’s apartment has pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge.

Federal investigators said Kelly Goodlett added a false line to the warrant and later conspired with another detective to create a cover story when Taylor’s March 13, 2020, shooting death by police began gaining national attention.

Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, was shot to death by officers who knocked down her door while executing a drug search warrant. Taylor’s boyfriend fired a shot that hit one of the officers as they came through the door and they returned fire, striking Taylor multiple times.

Goodlett, 35, appeared in a federal courtroom in Louisville on Tuesday afternoon and admitted to conspiring with another Louisville police officer to falsify the warrant. Goodlett briefly answered several questions from federal judge Rebecca Jennings Grady.

Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, was in the courtroom Tuesday but did not speak after the proceedings.

Three former Louisville officers were indicted on criminal civil rights charges earlier this month by a federal grand jury. Goodlett was not indicted, but charged in a federal information filing, which likely means the former detective is cooperating with investigators.

Goodlett will be sentenced Nov. 22. Grady said there may be “extenuating circumstances” that may move the court to push back the sentencing date. Part of the plea hearing was also kept under seal and was not discussed in open court Tuesday. She faces up to five years in prison for the conviction.

She resigned from the department Aug. 5, a day after U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced new federal charges in the Taylor case.

Former officers Joshua Jaynes and Kyle Meany were indicted on charges related to the warrant used to search Taylor’s home. A third former officer, Brett Hankison, was charged with using excessive force when he retreated from Taylor’s door, turned a corner and fired 10 shots into the side of her two-bedroom apartment. He was acquitted by a jury on similar state charges earlier this year. Jaynes, Meany and Hankison have all been fired.

The three former officers face a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted on the civil rights charges.

Federal prosecutors said in court records that Jaynes, who drew up the Taylor warrant, had claimed to Goodlett days before the warrant was served that he had “verified” from a postal inspector that a suspected drug dealer was receiving packages at Taylor’s apartment. But Goodlett knew this was false and told Jaynes the warrant did not yet have enough information connecting Taylor to criminal activity, prosecutors said. She added a paragraph saying the suspected drug dealer, Jamarcus Glover, was using Taylor’s apartment as his current address, according to the court records.

Two months later, when the Taylor shooting was attracting national headlines, the postal inspector told a media outlet he had not verified packages for Glover were going to Taylor’s apartment. Jaynes and Goodlett then met in Jaynes’ garage to “get on the same page” before Jaynes talked to investigators about the Taylor warrant, court records said.

They decided to say Sgt. John Mattingly, who is identified in the court records as J.M., told them Glover was receiving packages at Taylor’s home, according to prosecutors. Mattingly was shot in the leg during the raid at Taylor’s apartment.

Meany, who signed off on the Taylor warrant and was still a Louisville police sergeant when he was indicted on Aug. 4, was fired by Louisville Police Chief Erika Shields on Friday.

Shields said in a statement that Meany has not yet had his case heard by a jury, but “he is facing multiple federal charges after a lengthy investigation by the DOJ” and should not “expect continued employment under such conditions.”

Hankison was the only officer charged who was on the scene the night of the killing.

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Lawyer’s Group Text Causes 2nd Florida Murder Case Mistrial

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A prosecutor in a murder case complained about a judge’s ruling in a group text message that included the judge, resulting in a second mistrial for a man charged with killing his girlfriend’s young son. Now the defense wants the case dismissed altogether.

Broward County Judge Peter Holden refused to allow a 911 call as evidence against Corey Gorden, who is accused of killing the 3-year-old in 2015 and returning him in his car seat to his mother as if nothing had happened.

Assistant State Attorney Katya Palmiotto then sent a text complaining about the ruling to a group of current and former homicide prosecutors, the South Florida SunSentinel reported.

“Holden just sustained their objection and wouldn’t let us put the 911 call in as hearsay,” she wrote.

As a former homicide prosecutor who was appointed to the bench in 2018, the judge remained in the group chat. And lawyers are prohibited in criminal cases from talking with the judge if the defendant’s lawyers are not present.

Defense lawyer Michael Gottlieb filed for mistrial on Wednesday, saying in a summary that the 15-year veteran prosecutor had been overheard saying she messed up “real bad.”

“The judge was visibly upset and appeared angry,” Gottlieb wrote.

Holden grilled the prosecutor about the text message before declaring a mistrial.

In May, another judge declared a mistrial when prosecutors asked a witness about Gorden’s refusal to give a statement. Criminal trial jurors are not permitted to consider the defendants silence as proof of guilt.

Holden has not set a hearing on Gottlieb’s motion to dismiss the case.

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Uvalde Schools Look to Fire Chief Arredondo After Shooting

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FILE - Uvalde School Police Chief Pete Arredondo, third from left, stands during a news conference outside of the Robb Elementary school in Uvalde, Texas Thursday, May 26, 2022. The district’s superintendent said Wednesday, June 22 that Arredondo has been put on leave following allegations that he erred in his response to a mass shooting at an elementary school that left 19 students and two teachers dead. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills, File)

UVALDE, Texas (AP) — Facing massive public pressure, Uvalde’s top school official has recommended the firing of the school district police chief who was central to the botched law enforcement response to the elementary school shooting nearly two months ago that killed two teachers and 19 students.

The South Texas city’s school board announced Wednesday that it will consider firing Chief Pete Arredondo at a special meeting Saturday. Arredondo has been accused by state officials of making several critical mistakes during the May 24 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School.

School officials have previously resisted calls to fire Arredondo. The announcement comes two days after a meeting where the school board members were lambasted for more than three hours by members of the public, who accused them of not implementing basic security at Robb, of not being transparent about what happened and of failing to hold Arredondo to account for his actions.

 

 

Confronted with parents’ vociferous demands to fire Arredondo and warnings that his job would be next, Superintendent Hal Harrell said Monday that the police chief was a contract employee who could not be fired at will. The agenda for Saturday’s meeting includes the board discussing the potential firing with its lawyer.

Arredondo, who has been on leave from the district since June 22, has faced blistering criticism since the massacre, most notably for not ordering officers to immediately breach the classroom where an 18-year-old gunman carried out the attack. If fired, Arredondo would become the first officer ousted from his job following the deadliest Texas school shooting in history.

 

 

Although nearly 400 officers from various agencies were involved in the police response that took more than an hour to confront and kill the shooter, Arredondo is one of only two known to have faced discipline. His attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The move to potentially fire the chief follows the release of a damning 80-page report by a Texas House committee that blamed all levels of law enforcement for a slow and chaotic response. The report found that 376 law enforcement officers massed at the school, with more than half coming from state and federal agencies, but that they “failed to adhere to their active shooter training, and they failed to prioritize saving innocent lives over their own safety.”

According to the committee, Arredondo told lawmakers he didn’t consider himself the on-scene commander in charge and that his priority was to protect children in other classrooms. The committee report called that decision a “terrible, tragic mistake.”

Body camera footage released by the Uvalde officials shows Arredondo in the hallway trying multiple sets of keys on other classroom doors, but not the one where the massacre took place. The classroom door could not be locked from the inside, but there is no indication officers tried to open the door while the gunman was inside.

“Our thought was: ‘If he comes out, you know, you eliminate the threat,’ correct?” Arredondo told the committee, according to the report. “And just the thought of other children being in other classrooms, my thought was: ‘We can’t let him come back out. If he comes back out, we take him out, or we eliminate the threat.’”

Arredondo, 50, grew up in Uvalde and spent much of his nearly 30-year career in law enforcement in the city. He took the head police job at the school district in 2020 and was sworn in as a member of the City Council in a closed-door ceremony May 31. He resigned from his council seat July 2.

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