Evidence points to a December raid of the Riverview Gun Shop in East Windsor, Conn., where Sandy Hook Elementary School murderer Adam Lanza’s mother reportedly purchased the Bushmaster rifle used in the massacre, as being an event staged more for media fanfare than for public safety, legal documents issued to authorize the raid indicate.
Gun Rights Examiner has been sitting on much of this information since since the evening of the raid, but has held onto it pending further corroboration of certain information. With the publication in this column on August 29 of such information, further details can now be shared.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which conducted the raid with local police to close the shop and seize records and contents, had been documenting and communicating with the store owner about compliance issues for years, and had even withheld from that owner evidence of illegal activity on the part of a key employee for months, the warrant and notice of revocation authorizing the store’s closure reveal. Further, the timing of a detailed news report of the raid suggests the bureau had set the reporters up with a complete story ready to publish before the raid took place, a marked deviation from practices relied on by ATF and the Justice Department when they have refused to share information with oversight investigations because ongoing investigations might become compromised.
The sale of the firearm to Nancy Lanza complied with all applicable laws, so that was not an issue behind the raid, although it guaranteed a national media spotlight guaranteed to create the impression that the enforcement agency was responding swiftly and decisively on the case. At issue are a series of noncompliance findings against Riverview dating back to 2007, according to the notice of revocation signed by Director of Industry Operations Kenneth E. Hoachens, and “delivered” to Riverview/Federal Firearms Licensee David E. LaGuercia “by personal service” on December 20. [Note: Gun Rights Examiner has been allowed to review these documents. Those interested in tracking down a copy should refer to Case Number BNX: 120655 from ATF’s Boston Field Division.]
“You are hereby advised that your Federal Firearms License is revoked effective December 20, 2012,” the notice begins. “Enclosed please find a Final Notice of Revocation and the Findings of Fact and Conclusion of Law from the hearing held on August 8th and 9th, 2012,” it continues, establishing that if ATF believed the findings merited a high-profile raid coordinated with local police that was sure to garner publicity, they had all the evidence they needed at least four months prior to the raid, and actually for longer than that.
The notice reveals reports of violation issued in 2007, a resulting warning letter and conference in 2008, further citations in 2009, another warning conference in 2010 resulting from those findings, and further “willful violations” reported to LaGuercia in 2011. Most were for paperwork/form-completion and reporting violations, but one of the most serious findings dealt with Riverview employee Krystopher Dibella, alleged to have “on at least two occasions” sold ammunition to “a person whom he had reason to believe was a felon,” and who then allegedly also “allowed [him] to handle firearms while he was on the licensee premises in violation of [U.S. Code].
“The licensee business is responsible, under the doctrine of respondeat superior for the actions of its employee and therefore these constitute willful violations of the GCA [Gun Control Act of 1968] and constitute additional grounds for revocation of this license,” the notice declares.
What the notice doesn’t say is why the alleged violations of law by Dibella, which reportedly occurred “during the period from approximately Jan. 2010 to July 2011” and were attributed to an investigation by “ATF law enforcement,” were not acted upon. Instead, they were withheld from LaGuercia until the Aug. 2012 hearing referred to in Hoachens’ cover letter, at which point, informed source tells Gun Rights Examiner “the horrified FFL immediately fired him.” That hardly squares with an urgent need to conduct an armed multi-agency raid, which by its very nature presumes a threat warranting such a show of force by the state against its citizens.
The warrant itself [again, Gun Rights Examiner has reviewed a copy of the document to validate this information] was signed by United States Magistrate Judge Holly B. Fitzsimmons on the day of the raid, with the very specific annotation “3:31 p.m..” pointingto further troubling indicators about the raid, its timing, and the immediate detailed media coverage it received from The Hartford Courant.
“Now the sale to Lanza was spot on,” the source told Gun Rights Examiner on the night of the raid. “No conflicts, errors, or anything.
“But tonight, at 6.30, ATF showed up at his door with 30 agents and a search warrant,” the source observed. “Without sounding like a conspiracy theorist, this article hit five minutes before that.”
The article the source referred to has been updated, so it now shows a date of “7:32 p.m. EST, December 21, 2012.” However, a Google search conducted shortly after the story first appeared reveal at least one source linking to the Courant story on the CTNow website from “Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. 6:08 p.m. EST.” [See screenshot posted at The War on Guns.]
It’s fair to ask how The Courant was able to produce such a detailed report practically simultaneously to the events without advance information of the ongoing raid. It would appear to be especially relevant as the situation was deemed by professional federal law enforcement to be dangerous enough to send dozens of armed agents and police officers ostensibly into harm’s way, not to mention posing real risks to store employees and any customers who may have been on premises.
It’s also fair to ask if information about “ongoing criminal investigations” is only jeopardized when Congress asks for it. Perhaps someone from there will be motivated to find out who at ATF tipped off the reporters, and if there were any prior internal discussions, memos or emails about coordinating the raid with the media.
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