Still More Questions Than Answers on SC Man's Wrongful Arrest by ATF

AP Photo/Morry Gash

Law enforcement at any level is a difficult job. I have respect for those who do it, though I also know that like any job, there are good and bad with all points in between. It's important, at least in my mind, to blast the bad while not painting the whole with too broad of a brush.


With the ATF, that's becoming increasingly difficult.

A couple of weeks ago, Cam wrote about a man in South Carolina who was wrongfully arrested by the ATF. They claimed the man had been under surveillance for a year, that they'd seen him conduct sales of guns and narcotics to undercover police officers, and were ready to send him to prison over it. He was arrested and arraigned before the court. There's just one problem.

It was the wrong guy.

Now, over at The Gun Writer, Lee Williams covered the story and he notes that while the ATF apparently botched this arrest in almost every way imaginable, it didn't stop them from high-fiving themselves.

Neither prosecutors nor the ATF allowed [Bryan Montiea] Wilson’s false arrest to dampen their enthusiasm for what they described in a press release as an “advanced, intelligence-based, multi-faceted law enforcement operation.”

“In June of 2022, in response to rising violent crime in the West Columbia area, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in Columbia launched an advanced, intelligence-based, multi-faceted law enforcement operation. The purpose of the operation was to target criminal entities and groups in the area, specifically those engaged in the illegal use, sale, and possession of firearms and narcotics. ATF established a controlled buy location, and ATF undercover agents and confidential informants began conducting controlled purchases of firearms and narcotics from criminal targets in the area, while local agencies conducted crime suppression operations,” the release states.

According to the press release, 210 firearms were seized and 20 people were arrested, including “members of the Bloods, Crips, and Gangster Disciple street gangs.”

Neither Wilson nor his false arrest were mentioned in the press release.


Shocking, I know. 

What also isn't available is literally any answers as to how the ATF could have screwed up this badly. I mean, doesn't day one of fed school include something about making sure you've got the right identification for your suspect?

I mean, this was a guy selling guns and drugs illegally. Those people aren't usually trustworthy, particularly since you can't rat them out if you don't know who they are. 

As such, you'd think they'd verify that the guy they're looking for is the same guy they're about to arrest. Maybe look up the name in driver's license records and compare the two people, maybe?

What's weirder to me is that they had Wilson's full name. They didn't just get the wrong Bryan Wilson, but they expressly sought to arrest Bryan Montiea Wilson.

There really need to be some harsh questions being answered here.

As bad as this was, though, Williams notes the similarities to another ATF operation.

We will never know all of the allegations that the ATF made against Wilson or the details. Their federal complaint was quickly sealed and is no longer available to the public. However, the allegations Wilson’s attorney included in his civil suit are eerily similar to the allegations ATF made about Bryan Malinowski, the 53-year-old Arkansas airport executive whom ATF agents shot and killed in his home March 19.

The primary difference is that Wilson was arrested at work, which created problems but didn't involve him potentially thinking he was facing a home invasion and trying to defend himself, only to be gunned down by the ATF.


Wilson's situation really should force an examination of Malinowski's case. If they could be so completely wrong in one instance, how can we just assume they didn't botch the job as badly in another? Malinowski's background was hardly that of a hardened criminal. Why would he be an illegal arms dealer as the ATF allege?

I'm not saying it isn't possible, only that in light of what we have in South Carolina, only a fool would assume the ATF got it right with Malinowski.

One key difference, though, is that Malinowski isn't here to file a lawsuit for wrongful arrest.

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