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April 22, 2024

As you know, on March 19, the top executive for Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, Bryan Malinowski, 53, was shot twice in the head in the hallway of his home, just steps away from his wife, during a pre-dawn raid by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and died in the hospital three days later.  The shock can hardly be described.  The agents hadn’t even gone there to arrest him; they had been sent only to execute a search warrant at his residence.

Both U.S. senators from Arkansas, Tom Cotton and John Boozman, are now seeking answers about his death.  In a joint statement released late Friday afternoon, shortly after the DOJ’s admission (finally) that the agents weren’t wearing bodycams, they said, “The Department of Justice confirmed to us last night that the ATF agents involved in the execution of a search warrant of the home of Bryan Malinowski weren’t wearing body cameras.  We will continue to press the Department to explain how this violation of its own policy could’ve happened and to disclose the full circumstances of this tragedy.  Mr. Malinowski’s family and the public have a right to a full accounting of the facts.”

Malinowski’s sister is also speaking out about her brother’s killing. She says she finds it “hard to believe” that the agents all defied Biden’s presidential mandate to wear body cams when executing search warrants: “Ten cars of agents, and no one had a body camera? They couldn’t all be that dumb.”

Here’s an excellent write-up, with a call for ATF Director Steve Dettelbach to be brought before the House Oversight Committee ASAP...

In an interview a week ago Sunday, Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin was calling for the bodycam video to be “released immediately.”  Apparently, even the AG assumed there was video.

Last week, a group of Arkansas state legislators called for the release of the video as well.  State Rep. Matt Duffield spared no words: “Do they not understand that the longer they wait to do the explaining, the more suspicious and cynical the public becomes about the way the ATF does its business?  And in this case, ride roughshod over the civil rights of an Arkansas citizen. And, some might contend, get away with coldblooded murder.”

I wonder what he’d have to say now that he knows there were no bodycams at all.

It’s mystifying why the agents weren’t wearing bodycams.  As of 2022, the ATF has had a policy requiring the use of BWCs (Body-Worn Cameras) during the execution of search warrants and other “federal task force operations.”  This policy was specifically created as a response to the shooting of Breonna Taylor, the Louisville, Kentucky, EMT worker who was killed by ATF officers during the execution of a search warrant.

“It is astounding for ATF to now claim they simply ignored this clear policy.  It obviously raises more questions than it answers,” said Bud Cummins.  (Full disclosure:  Bud has served as legal counsel in my governor’s office as well.)

The one account we’ve heard, which comes from his wife, is that the two of them were awakened by a crash as the front door was bashed in and Bryan went out into the hall, holding the gun he keeps at their bedside.  She was close behind him.  He encountered men in black in the hallway and shot towards their feet.  They fired back, and two shots hit him in the head.  Agents rendered aid until the ambulance arrived.  Then, they proceeded with their search and confiscation of the guns.

The Department of “Justice” of course, does not comment on matters such as this while they are under investigation, so it’s doubtful there will be any news on that front for some time.  We’ve detailed in the newsletter what was known about Malinowski’s activities as a gun and coin collector and hobbyist.  Though he did sell firearms at gun shows, it would be a stretch to describe it as his “business,” which is what would make it illegal, since he already made a fine living as the highest-paid city official in Little Rock.  But he had been under investigation since last November for selling firearms without a license, at least one of which had turned up at a crime scene and a few others found during routine traffic stops involving marijuana.

During about a three-year period, he allegedly purchased more than 150 guns, which he then allegedly resold.  He’d purchased them legally but did check the box saying the guns were for himself, even though he later sold them.

“At worst,” Malinowski’s family said in a statement after he died, “Bryan Malinowski, a gun owner and gun enthusiast, stood accused of making private firearms sales to a person who may not have been legally entitled to purchase the guns.”

Until we learn more, I have to echo his attorney’s statement:  it truly is astounding that the ATF would have ignored the bodycam policy, which was put in place just a couple of years ago in response to a woman being killed during one of these blasted raids.  Actually, it’s more than astounding --- it’s not even believable, certainly not in the case of Mr. Malinowski.  Whoever ordered this raid had to know that, given the high profile of their target, it was going to get a lot of attention.  It would have been important to do everything by the book.  So there’s no way they would just “forget” to wear their bodycams.  A decision had to be made to violate policy.  (They also chose to disable Malinowski’s RING camera.)  Was it just in this particular case?  We don’t know yet.

And, of course, there’s still that same nagging question about why the raid was necessary in the first place.  All they had to do was wait for him to come out to his car to go to work in the morning and peaceably serve the warrant outside, in the driveway.  Or they could have served it at his office at the airport.  So much simpler, really, and everybody comes out alive.

Either these heavy-handed home invasions have simply become the norm for our government agencies, or there are important questions specific to Malinowski’s death that still haven’t been answered.  Either possibility is unsettling, and so is the thought of how little national attention this story is receiving.

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