ATF Director Grilled by House GOP on Deadly Arkansas Raid

NTD Newsroom
By NTD Newsroom
May 23, 2024Congress
ATF Director Grilled by House GOP on Deadly Arkansas Raid
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Director Steven Dettelbach testifies to the House Judiciary Committee's oversight hearing on May 23, 2024, in a still from video. (House Judiciary Committee/Screenshot via NTD)

Republicans on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee grilled Steven Dettlebach, the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), during a hearing Wednesday about the March raid in which an Arkansas man was killed.

Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told the committee that Bryan Malinowski of Little Rock, Arkansas, was killed by ATF agents 57 seconds after they first set foot on his front porch at about 6 a.m. on March 19.

Mr. Dettlebach provided few answers, telling Mr. Jordan that the Arkansas State Police are looking into the shooting. He told the committee it is his understanding that the Sixth District Prosecutor’s Office in Pulaski County, Arkansas, was reviewing the investigation report.

Mr. Dettlebach said he is prevented by ATF policy from commenting on an active investigation.

Kelly Ward, chief deputy with the Pulaski County Prosecutor’s Office, confirmed the office received the report around April 23. She said the prosecutor’s office is reviewing the report but she did not know when that review would be complete.

“I do not have a timeline for that,” Ms. Ward told The Epoch Times.

At the request of Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas), Mr. Dettlebach apologized to Maer Malinowski, Mr. Malinowski’s widow, who was present for the hearing.

“Whenever these things happen, it’s a tragedy. Of course, we’re sorry. Everybody is sorry that this occurred,” Mr. Dettlebach said.

Mr. Dettlebach refused to answer questions about why none of the officers used body cameras during the predawn raid, why they covered the lens of Mr. Malinowski’s doorbell camera, why the ATF delayed serving the search warrant for a week in an apparent attempt to ensure Mr. Malinowski was home, or why the ATF apparently shut off electricity to Mr. Malinowski’s house.

“What are you trying to hide?” Mr. Jordan asked.

Mr. Dettlebach denied trying to hide anything. He said only one-third of ATF agents have body cameras because the agency is phasing in their use.

Democrat Lawmakers Weigh In

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), the committee’s ranking member, said that Congress authorized the ATF’s rule changes and other recent actions in the 2022 Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. He claimed the law is reducing violent crime and saving lives despite what he portrayed as Republican efforts to hobble the FBI, ATF, and other federal law enforcement agencies.

Mr. Nadler joined other Democrats in blaming Republicans for the absence of body cameras on March 19.

“The Republicans use their control of the House to enact significant cuts to several critical law enforcement agencies,” he said.

Mr. Nehls dismissed the claim that the ATF is underfunded, pointing out that the agency has a budget of $1.6 billion.

“Try to convince the American people you don’t have the Do Re Mi to put body cameras on your agents,” Mr. Nehls said. “I’m telling you, it stinks to high heaven. It seems like there’s a cover-up here.”

According to Mr. Dettlebach, the ATF must spread its budget across many missions. He told the committee that based on the current funding, all ATF agents will be outfitted with body cameras by the end of 2026.

Mr. Dettlebach said the ATF had uncovered evidence that Mr. Malinowski had purchased dozens of guns between November 2022 and October 2023. According to the affidavit, some of those guns were found in the possession of people who could not legally own firearms.

He pointed out that a judge was convinced the ATF had enough probable cause for a search.

Rep. Daryl Issa (R-Calif.) asked why the ATF only requested to search Mr. Malinowski’s house. Mr. Issa said it appeared the ATF thought it had enough evidence to arrest Mr. Malinowski, but his case was being handled differently than other allegations of firearms law violations.

“Did you have an arrest warrant if you had a belief that he had committed a crime?” Mr. Issa asked.

Democrats on the committee said Republicans are on a campaign to eradicate the ATF at the behest of the gun lobby. They repeated claims that violence involving guns is an epidemic and that the ATF is the only federal agency tasked with addressing the issue.

Rep. Mary Scanlon (D-Pa.) said that five people had been shot in a small family-owned store in Chester, Pennsylvania, the day before the hearing. She said that rather than support agencies dedicated to addressing such crime, the committee argues over funding.

“This unrelenting, unnecessary daily toll of gunfire is hitting families in every corner of every community across our country. The violence is enabled by legislators who choose to do nothing,” she told the committee.

Republicans countered that supporting an agency in its law enforcement mission doesn’t mean supporting everything it does.

From The Epoch Times

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