Family Has Questions After Airport Executive Killed in ATF Raid

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

The family of an Arkansas airport executive who died after he was shot in an ATF raid on his Little Rock home this week say they don't understand why agents stormed into his house instead of simply waiting to take him into custody for allegedly selling guns as an unlicensed dealer. Bryan Malinowski exchanged fire with ATF agents early Tuesday morning, but as the Second Amendment Foundation's Lee Williams reports, it's not clear if he knew it was federal agents breaking down the door of his home, or if he believed the raid was actually a home invasion. 


“The ATF burst into his house, and they did it in a manner that was the most dangerous combination possible.” Bryan’s brother Matthew Malinowski told local media Wednesday. “The easiest way to have taken care of this situation – the most common way – would be to wait until he gets in his car, pull over and arrest him. Or you wait until he comes to work, and you arrest him there.”

One ATF agent received non-life-threatening wounds during the gunfight and is expected to fully recover.

After the ATF SWAT team breached the front door, an agent whose name has not been publicly released shot Bryan Malinowski in the head with what his brother described as a “high-caliber rifle.”

According to the ATF, Malinowski, who was the executive director of the Little Rock airport, was also "engaged in the business" of selling firearms without a Federal Firearms License; allegedly buying around 150 firearms over the past three years and selling many of them at gun shows in Arkansas. That is a federal offense under current law, but we're talking about a non-violent crime even if the allegations are true. So why did heavily armed agents decide to raid Malinowski's home to take him into custody instead of waiting until he'd left his home? 

An affidavit unsealed by a federal judge on Thursday shines some light on the allegations against Malinowski but provides little insight into the ATF's decision to arrest him during the raid instead of taking him into custody and then searching his home. 


The 34-page affidavit, filed with U.S. Magistrate Judge Joe Volpe on March 6, paints a picture of a man who spent weekends traveling to gun shows and selling tables full of weapons. Some of those guns ended up at crime scenes in Arkansas, California and Canada, although the document does not say any of those weapons were used in the commission of a violent crime. 

Court documents say Malinowski bought dozens of guns from federally licensed dealers over recent years, each time affirming that he was buying them for himself. His purchases from a single federally licensed dealer in North Little Rock include multiples of the same type of gun: 24 Glock Model 45 pistols, nine Fed Arm Model FR-16 pistols, nine Beretta Model 92A pistols and smaller numbers of multiple other models. He bought 142 guns from this dealer between 2019 and December 2023.

Malinowski went on to sell some of those guns at gun shows and informally through word of mouth. Malinowski allegedly offered to find specific guns for potential customers. He made some of his sales in parking lots and his vehicle was seen late at night in parts of Little Rock “known for violent crime, and buying and selling contraband such as firearms and controlled substances, specifically during the evening and midnight hours,” the affidavit says.

According to the affidavit, Malinowski was under surveillance at least as far back as January, and it appears there were plenty of opportunities to arrest him during or directly after one of his alleged sales. So why did the ATF wait until Tuesday morning to send a team of armed agents to his home? 


In a statement released by Malinowski's family on Thursday, his loved ones offered their prayers to the ATF agent who was wounded in the raid while raising serious questions about the agency's decision to go after him at his home. 

“Our family has endured an unspeakable tragedy and one that is almost impossible to understand. We are mourning the loss of Bryan, who passed away earlier today. Our thoughts and prayers also go out to the government agent who was injured yesterday, and to his family. We do not understand the government’s decisions which led to a dawn raid on a private home and triggered the use of deadly force. We are obviously concerned about the allegations in the affidavit released by the government today. Even if the allegations in the affidavit are true, they don’t begin to justify what happened. At worst, Bryan Malinowski, a gun owner and gun enthusiast, stood accused of making private firearm sales to a person who may not have been legally entitled to purchase the guns. For now, we will wait for all the facts to come out. In the meantime, we ask that the public and the media respect our privacy,” the statement reads.

Under Joe Biden's watch the ATF has become a weaponized arm of the gun control lobby complete with law enforcement powers, and the House Oversight Committee needs to bring Steve Dettelbach to Capitol Hill for questioning ASAP. Why did the ATF serve its search warrant on the home and Malinowski's vehicle when they knew he was at the residence? Wouldn't it have made more sense, as the family suggests, to wait until he was away from the house before executing the warrant and searching the home? Malinowski could have been taken into custody at his job, on the way to work, or even at one of the gun shows where undercover ATF agents were watching Malinowski. 


If members of Congress do end up grilling Dettelbach about the circumstances of the raid, they also need to ask some broader questions. The ATF is currently drafting a rule that would dramatically expand who is "engaged in the business" of selling guns without an FFL, to the point that someone wouldn't even have to complete a single purchase to be labeled an illegal gun dealer by the agency. 

Does the agency plan on enforcing that rule with more raids like this one once it's in effect? Has the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention put pressure on the ATF to use overwhelming force when arresting individuals accused of selling guns without a federal firearms license? Why shouldn't gun owners be terrified that the ATF could break down their door and come in with guns drawn if they've offered a gun from their private collection for sale? 

Congress should demand Dettelbach address these questions in a public setting. We the people, including Malinowski's family, deserve to know what the hell is going on at the ATF, and Dettelbach needs to answer for the debacle that left Malinowski dead an ATF agent wounded... as well as the agency's proposed rule that would empower them to conduct similar raids on an untold number of gun owners around the country.  

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