Feds seek to keep guns seized after West Texas mass shooting
DALLAS (AP) — Prosecutors are seeking to keep dozens of guns and firearm accessories seized from a man whose home was searched last year following a mass shooting in West Texas that left more than 20 people injured and seven dead.
Lawyers for the Justice Department have asked a federal court to grant the government permanent possession of 29 pistols, rifles and gun parts taken from the Lubbock home of Marcus Anthony Braziel. Court records value the guns at more $11,000.
The search of Braziel’s home last September came days after another man drove through Odessa and Midland, neighboring cities 140 miles (225 kilometers) south of Lubbock, shooting people before being shot dead by police.
At the time, a federal law enforcement official did not identify Braziel by name but said the home searched was that of a man who agents believed sold a semi-automatic rifle to the alleged gunman, 36-year-old Seth Aaron Ator.
The civil forfeiture complaint filed last week states Braziel spent years buying, selling and building guns without a license, and in 2016 sold an AM-15 rifle to an Odessa resident with the initials “S.A.”
The case is against the seized firearms, not Braziel, and there is no record of a criminal case against him. It was first reported by KLBK-TV.
A person who answered a phone number associated with Braziel hung up when asked about the case and did not respond to a subsequent voicemail seeking comment. A lawyer for Braziel could not be immediately identified.
“The criminal investigation involving Mr. Braziel is ongoing,” said Erin Dooley, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Texas.
Ator obtained the gun he used in the shooting in a private sale, allowing him to evade the type of background check that blocked him from getting a gun in 2014 due to a “mental health issue,” a federal official told The Associated Press last year.
Private sales, which some estimates suggest account for 25% to 40% of all gun sales, are not subject to a federal background check in the United States. If the person selling the firearm knows the buyer cannot legally purchase or possess a firearm, they would be violating the law. But they are not required to find out if the person can possess a firearm and are not required to conduct a background check.