Join our brand new verified AMN Telegram channel and get important news uncensored!

House Republicans Press ATF Director For Answers About Deadly March No-Knock Raid in Arkansas

ATF Agent (ATF/Released)
May 24, 2024

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee repeatedly pressed U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) Director Steven Dettelbach, at a Thursday hearing, for answers about the deadly March 19 raid on the home of airport executive Bryan Malinowski.

Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) first reached out in April, calling on the ATF director to provide answers about the circumstances of Malinowski’s death. Dettelbach did not provide those responses by Jordan’s initial May 6 deadline and did not reference the deadly raid in his opening statement on Thursday.

Beginning his questioning, Jordan noted ATF agents covered over a security camera on Malinowski’s doorstep prior to entering his home at around 6 a.m. on March 19. Jordan also noted the ATF has provided no indication they announced themselves before breaching Malinowski’s front door and have said they were not wearing body cameras to document their actions during the raid.

“What were you guys trying to hide?” Jordan asked.

Dettelbach insisted his agency wasn’t trying to hide anything and that “after the incident” his agency and the Little Rock Police Department (LRPD) called for an independent investigation of the raid by the Arkansas State Police and a local prosecutor.

“I asked you three questions. Why’d you put the tape on the doorbell camera, why’d you cut the lights, and why didn’t you wear the body cameras?” Jordan responded.

Dettelbach then reiterated he wasn’t trying to hide anything, but said he wanted to refrain from talking about the matter as it’s under active investigation.

“How about this one? Why’d you ignore the rules? Because don’t the rules don’t the rules say you should only use a no-knock entrance into a property if it’s the only way; if it’s the absolute best way to do it?” Jordan said, before reading off of a U.S. Department of Justice directive calling for federal agents to limit the use of no-knock entries into homes.

Dettelbach eventually said the ATF has implemented its body-camera policy in only about a third of its field divisions, but said his agency hasn’t received additional funding from Congress for the program.

Jordan then asked Dettelbach whether LRPD officers accompanying ATF agents on the Malinowski raid wore body cameras. Dettelbach said local law enforcement members assisting the ATF can follow their own policies on body cameras, to which Jordan insisted LRPD’s policy is to wear body cameras, but that officers on the Malinowski raid weren’t.

“Did you tell [LRPD officers] not to wear them?” Jordan pressed on.

Dettelbach interjected that the congressman’s line of questioning was “unfair.”

“You’ve got to admit this is a little unique. You’ve got a citizen, the highest-paid official in the municipal government Little Rock Arkansas, making $260,000 a year running the airport, no criminal background history, no nothing, and he’s dead at a pre-dawn raid when it sure looks like you could’ve served this search warrant when he wasn’t there. But you decided not to, you decided to wait till he was home when you did it on March 19th, and as a result Mr. Malinowski is no longer with us,” Jordan said.

Malinowski Raid Tied To Suspected Unlicensed Gun Sales

The ATF carried out its deadly raid on the Malinowski home under the belief that he was acting as an unlicensed firearm dealer. But gun-rights advocates have argued the rules regarding what sales require licensure haven’t been entirely clear.

The ATF’s own policy guidance states that “a person may transfer a firearm to an unlicensed resident of their state, provided the transferor does not know or have reasonable cause to believe the transferee is prohibited from receiving or possessing firearms under federal law.”

“Mr. Malinowski’s family and close friends don’t think he had any inkling the ATF was concerned about his gun show sales,” Bud Cummins, an attorney representing the Malinowski family, has said of the ATF raid. “They are all confident that he would have never jeopardized his career in airport management by knowingly flaunting a regulation pertaining to his weekend hobby.”

In the weeks since the Malinowski raid, the DOJ and ATF have moved to finalize a new rule reframing what kinds of firearms-related transfers they consider to be business activity requiring federal licensure. The ATF has summarized this new rule, which is laid in more than 100 pages of legal language, as stating a firearms-related business requiring a license is one in which the individual making the sales is predominantly motivated by profit and doesn’t have to have received such profit to fall under the rule.

A federal judge granted a temporary restraining order last week, blocking the ATF from enforcing the rule against a limited number of plaintiffs as they continue to challenge the new ATF rule as unclear and potentially injurious to their rights.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) pressed Dettelbach at the Wednesday hearing to state whether certain hypothetical firearms transfers would qualify as activity requiring a license.

“Do you understand why the average citizen sitting out there saying I’ve got 400 pages of rule making might not understand what they are allowed to do under the law when the director of the ATF can’t look at a member of Congress and tell me yes or no emphatically whether or not if I sell a weapon or two weapons or three weapons or five whether or not I need a license?” Roy asked.

Dettelbach replied that he believes the new ATF rule “provides way more information and clarity” than past federal language regarding firearms licenses.

Nehls Calls on Dettelbach to Apologize to Malinowski Family

Rep. Troy Nehls (R-TX) confronted Dettelbach about the Malinowski raid at another point in the Thursday hearing. Nehls revealed Bryan Malinowski’s widow, Maer Malinowski, was in attendance at the hearing and asked the ATF director if he would apologize to her for the actions of his agents that led to Bryan’s death.

“Director, would you like to stand up and look at her and apologize?” Nehls asked.

Dettelbach turned in his seat, facing those in attendance in the gallery, and replied, “I already said, of course, whenever these things happen it’s a tragedy, of course we’re sorry, everybody is sorry that this occurred.”

“Look at her don’t look at me,” Nehls interjected as Dettelbach began to turn away from the gallery. Dettelbach replied that he was both trying to address her and speak into his microphone.

“It doesn’t mean that we can adjudicate this here today,” Dettelbach continued. “There’s an investigation going on, but of course everybody–and everybody feels bad, I’m sure.”

The ATF director went on to state that one of the federal agents involved in the March 19 raid was shot.

“A federal agent was shot, not shot at, shot, that day,” Dettelbach said. “Those things are hard facts for all of us.”

Nehls then went on to state that in his own law enforcement background as a sheriff for eight years, he opposed the practice of no-knock raids.

“When you have these SWAT teams looking like ninjas coming to doors at 6:00 in the morning it’s it just could cause some problems,” Nehls said.

The Texas congressman continued to question how the ATF director could reconcile the use of such no-knock raids with expectations to mitigate risks in law enforcement encounters.

“When you kick down or break down a door and you don’t even announce who you are what do you think is going to happen? This was Mr. Malanowski there to try to protect his family,” Nehls said.

Nehls also contested the idea that the ATF doesn’t have the funding to finish implementing body cameras across its field divisions, stating last year’s ATF budget was about $1.6 billion. The congressman admonished the ATF director to fix his agency’s priority.

“ATF cannot even define or explain the law they thought Bryan Malinowski may have violated. Bryan had no reason to believe ATF might target him” Cummins said in an emailed statement following the Wednesday hearing. “Director Dettelbach’s testimony illustrates the need to rebuild DOJ from the top down to eliminate this politicized dual system of justice. Trust is critical in law enforcement. Nobody trusts these guys.”

This article was originally published by FreeBase News and is reprinted with permission.