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Prosecuting attorney finds Little Rock shooting death justified

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Prosecuting attorney finds Little Rock shooting death justified

Jun 14, 2024 | 4:56 pm ET
By Mary Hennigan
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Prosecuting attorney finds Little Rock shooting death justified
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Arkansas lawmakers at an April 18, 2024, news conference seek answers to the fatal shooting of Little Rock's airport director during a raid by ATF agents in March. (Sonny Albarado/Arkansas Advocate)

This story was updated on June 14 at 4:20 p.m. to include a statement from Bud Cummins.

The federal agent who shot and killed a Little Rock airport executive while serving a search warrant in March used justifiable deadly force, according to Prosecuting Attorney Will Jones on Friday.

In the early hours on March 19, agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives served Bryan Malinowski a search warrant at his house in a west Little Rock cul-de-sac. Malinowski shot at the agents after they entered the house, to which the agents responded by firing their own weapons. Malinowski sustained severe injuries and died a few days later.

Agents obtained their warrant citing violations for dealing firearms without a license and unlawful acquisition of a firearm. According to court documents, Malinowski purchased about 150 guns over the last three years, many of which he sold at gun shows or to private buyers. He sold at least three guns to undercover officers.

The shooting of Malinowski, who was a known gun collector, has gained national attention. Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin cited his death when announcing a lawsuit challenging the federal change to close the gun show loophole rule, and Bud Cummins, the Malinowski family attorney, testified in front of a U.S. House subcommittee in May.

Several people, including Republican members of the state legislature and Griffin himself, called for more information about the Malinowski shooting, but it’s been kept mostly under wraps while Jones completed his case review.

A timeline included in Jones’ Friday report detailed the few crucial minutes on March 19 that sparked so much interest: 

“6:02:58 a.m. The Little Rock patrol officer employed his vehicle’s emergency lights and siren to announce the presence of law enforcement.

6:02:59 a.m. ATF agents begin a series of knocking and announcing ATF presence.

6:03:27 a.m. Agents use a [battering] ram to breach the door.

6:03:43 a.m. Malinowski fires the first of four shots from his [handgun].

6:03:44 a.m. ATF agent returns fire; discharging three shots from his agency issued M4.”

Jones found the ATF agent’s returned fire was justified as the officer who shot Malinowski witnessed a different agent fall to the ground and saw Malinowski point a gun at that agent.

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“Given the totality of the circumstances, Agent 2 had a reasonable belief that deadly force was necessary to defend himself and Agent 1. Therefore, the use of deadly force by Agent 2 was in accordance with Arkansas law and was justified,” Jones wrote.

The report also notes that Malinowski and his wife were awake in their bedroom when they heard knocking on the front door. The investigation found there was no disruption to the electrical service at Malinowski’s house as ATF agents were serving the warrant, though this was previously suggested.

In response to Jones’ findings, Cummins said “this is far from over.” He argued Jones did not take into account “independent judgements about whether ATF violated the law when they broke down [the] front door.”

He also claimed ATF didn’t wait a reasonable amount of time before entering the house.

“How long is reasonable to wait for someone to answer their front door at 6:00 a.m. in response to unexplained loud pounding in a 3000 square foot fully insulated home?,” the statement read. “Let’s pray the answer isn’t 28 seconds. The Fourth Amendment means more than that to every single one of us.”

Read Cummins’ full statement here.