Dettelbach Grilled Over ATF Raid That Resulted in Death of Arkansas Airport Executive

Oliver Contreras/Pool via AP

ATF Director Steve Dettelbach faced a barrage of questions about the death of Little Rock, Arkansas airport executive Bryan Malinowsk on Thursday, but didn't have any good answers for members of the House Judiciary Committee. Dettelbach said he was limited in what he could discuss with Congress given the internal investigation into the ATF raid on Malinowski's home, though he still claimed that there's been a lot of misinformation and falsehoods floating around in the aftermath of the botched raid. 


One of the most revealing points of Thursday's hearing (which just wrapped up as I was writing) was an assertion that the AFT had previously assembled a tactical team to execute a search warrant on Malinowski's home a week before the raid took place, but backed off when the learned that the airport executive wasn't at home. 

Malinowski was under investigation for selling guns without having a federal firearms license, but neither Dettelbach nor any other ATF official have explained why they decided to execute the warrant in the early morning hours rather than serving him with the warrant at his office or even during a traffic stop. They've also offered no proof to date that the agents announced themselves before breaching the door of Malinowski's home on the morning of March 19th. In fact, Dettelbach refused to comment on any of the tactics ATF agents use when executing search warrants; not just the raid on Malinowski's home, but in general. 


Malinowski's family and attorney maintain that the executive likely believed he was the target of a burglary or home invasion, which is why he armed himself and may have initially fired on who he thought were intruders. At another hearing on Wednesday, Malinowski family attorney Bud Cummins, a former U.S. Attorney, ripped the actions of the agents, which he says violated ATF protocols. 

Cummins testified that the agents disabled the home's doorbell camera and cut off electricity so Malinowski couldn't see them outside.

He also accused the ATF of not following protocol.

"We don't know all the details of what happened at the front door because they covered up the Ring camera, and because they didn't wear body cameras, in spite of a three-year-old policy initiated by the President of the United States that mandated that they wear body cameras when they're executing search warrants," Cummins said.

The botched raid on Malinowski's home hasn't been the only topic of today's hearing. Dettelbach at times defended the agency's new "engaged in the business rule", but also claimed that he couldn't answer every question because of the ongoing litigation against the rule. At one point Dettelbach came perilously close to admitting that the 400-page rule is almost impossible for the average gun owner to comply with, refusing to provide a definitive answer to a series of hypothetical situations that might trigger the "engaged in the business" rule. 


I'm glad that the Judiciary Committee at least tried to hold Dettelbach's feet to the fire, but I think most 2A supporters felt going in that he was going to stonewall the committee when it came to providing substantive answers to some very important questions about the agency's tactics, use of force, and mission. That's exactly what happened, and sadly, it might take a lawsuit from Malinowski's family to shed some light on the abuses in the agency's practices. 

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