ATF Likely to Dodge Accountability Bullet in Arkansas Shooting Death

by Vern Evans

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It appears no one will be held criminally accountable for ATF’s botched March 19 raid, during which 53-year-old Little Rock airport executive Bryan Malinowski was shot and killed in his own home. The post-shooting investigation is as flawed as ATF’s choice of tactics, which caused the killing.

Whenever a law enforcement officer kills someone, two separate investigations take place. The first is usually conducted by local officials who determine whether the officer should be charged with murder. The second investigation is conducted by the officer’s employer and determines whether the officer violated policy in any way.

The Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division (CID) investigated the Malinowski shooting. However, Arkansas State Police Director Col. Mike Hagar made a chilling statement late last month after his agency finished its investigation and sent the case to Sixth Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Will Jones.

“We do not have the authority to address methods and tactics used or whether agency protocols and policies were followed,” Col. Hagar said in a statement. “Any administrative oversight of tactics would fall to that agency’s – in this case, the U.S. Department of Justice – internal review and is not part of the scope of what ASP is authorized to review.”

Sixth Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Will Jones confirmed on social media that the case is now “under review.”

Col. Hagar’s statement appears almost apologetic in nature. He must know nothing will happen now, because his CID did not address ATF’s flawed raid tactics, which directly caused the shooting.

If it is distilled down to the base level, the shooting is simple. Malinowski shot at ATF agents, one of whom returned fire and shot him in the head. However, in order for justice to be served, a host of extenuating circumstances should have been addressed in the investigation, since this is far from a typical officer-involved shooting.

To be clear, ATF’s flawed tactics forced Malinowski to defend himself. He believed he was under attack by armed home invaders. But if investigators and now prosecutors didn’t address this, the case is over. No one will be held accountable for Malinowski’s death.

Col. Hagar’s claim that ATF will conduct some type of administrative review of its own raid tactics is laughable. The ATF has never held any of its agents accountable for civilian deaths. Fast and Furious, Ruby Ridge and Waco taught us that. Besides, agents didn’t even have an arrest warrant for Malinowski. All they had was a warrant to search his home. Agents listed a host of allegations in their search warrant affidavit, but Malinowski had yet to be charged with any crime.

Poor Tactics

ATF has been widely criticized for their tactics used during the Malinowski raid.

House Judiciary Committee Chair, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, has ordered ATF to turn over all documents related to the case.

The Arkansas Attorney General and both of the state’s Republican Senators have demanded answers, because ATF had a host of less-lethal tactical options available, which they did not use.

For example, ATF could have arrested Malinowski at the Clinton National Airport, where he served as executive director. They could have pulled him over on his way home and arrested him in his vehicle. They could have called his attorney and told him to turn in his client. Or, once the home was surrounded, agents could have contacted Malinowski on his cellphone — they knew the number since they had a warrant to search his phone — and ordered him to come out with his hands up. If he didn’t answer his phone, a bullhorn would have sufficed.

A video from a neighbor’s doorbell camera shows that agents arrived at Malinowski’s home in 10 separate vehicles. If they would have activated the emergency lights in all of these squad cars, Malinowski’s entire neighborhood would have been bathed in red flashing lights. Malinowski would have known immediately there were law enforcement officers stacked outside his home and not criminal home invaders.

No Comment

No one was willing to discuss this case.

Arkansas State Police Director Col. Mike Hagar was unavailable to be interviewed, according to his staff.

Arkansas State Police Major Stacie Rhoads, who commands the Criminal Investigation Division, did not return emails or messages left with her staff.

Sixth Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Will Jones did not return calls or messages left with his staff.

Neither Caroline Tabler nor Patrick McCann, communications staffers for Senator Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, returned calls seeking comments for this story.

Joshua Jackson, Special Agent in Charge of ATF’s New Orleans Field Division, did not return calls seeking comment for this story or messages left with his staff.


Story courtesy of the The Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project.  Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to support pro-gun stories like this.

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