Special thanks to Echo for this submission!
By Jim Rarey
December 2, 2002
SNIPER CASE: TRUE LIES?
As court records and other documents have become available, a troubling pattern of government willful inaction, suppression of relevant facts, and misleading statements to the media has emerged.
The handling of circumstances around the Bushmaster rifle, alleged to be the sniper weapon, by the ATF and FBI are incomprehensible and inexcusable. Initially there was confusion over a similar Bushmaster rifle Muhammad had purchased from Welcher’s Gun Shop in Tacoma, Washington in December of 1999. The rifle was sold back to the gun shop by Muhammad on May 23, 2000; two months after his ex-wife had obtained a restraining order against him. It was his apparent possession of the weapon after the date of the restraining order that was the basis of the arrest warrant issued in Seattle less than 24 hours before his arrest.
There are contradictory explanations of the route of the weapon now alleged to be the sniper rifle. The manufacturer, Bushmaster, says it shipped the rifle to an unnamed distributor in June of 2002. A statement from Bullseye Shooter Supply, the largest gun dealer in Tacoma, said the weapon was received on July 2, but directly from the manufacturer.
There is also a discrepancy in the description of the rifle between that of the gun store and the one said to have been found in the car when Muhammad and Malvo were arrested. At the conclusion of an ATF “investigation” as to why the store had no record of what happened to the weapon after it was received, the store filed a theft report with Tacoma police. Initially the storeowner Brian Borgelt (who incidentally is a former sniper instructor) had said there’s “a pretty good likelihood” Muhammad bought the rifle from his store.
In the report the rifle was described as having been fitted with a red visible laser sight. No such accessory was reported on the inventory of items recovered from the Chevrolet Caprice.
But the surprising thing is that Borgelt and the store are still in business. A couple of years ago, in an ATF audit, Borgelt reportedly was unable to account for 150 guns. Initial reports from the ATF said that about 340 guns were missing at the start of the current audit. ATF spokeswoman Martha Tebbenkamp said, “that number is not correct.” However she refused to say what the correct number is or whether it is higher or lower than the 340. She also refused to say what, if any, sanctions might be imposed. However one of the store employees said they received only a warning, nothing else.
The ATF has recently earned a reputation for coming down like a ton of bricks on minor violations of only one or two missing records. Borgelt’s treatment by the ATF tempts one to speculate he may be supplying government operatives with weapons for whatever purpose or fronting for the unnamed distributor.
But the distributor is not the only one that has remained nameless. According to the New York Post, on the Monday before Muhammad and Malvo were arrested, police got a tip from an unidentified Tacoma man. He said Muhammad and/or Malvo had told him about the attempted robbery and murder in Montgomery, Alabama giving details only the shooters would know. The Post article said the police were investigating that lead when the highly publicized call attributed to the sniper told the authorities to take a look at the incident in Montgomery (later determined to be the city in Alabama and not the county). The task force has never acknowledged this bombshell.
A second person relevant to the investigation is anonymous to the public. He told police Muhammad and Malvo lived with him for a couple of months in Tacoma during which time they had access to his weapons collection. One of the pistols in the collection was used in the murder of the daughter of a woman who had worked for Muhammad at his auto repair shop in Tacoma. Another pistol was used to shoot a couple of bullets into the wall of a local synagogue. The Seattle Times believes it knows who the man is and has requested an interview, which was declined. It is not known if this man and the one who phoned in the tip are one and the same.
If Tacoma (Pierce County) authorities decide to prosecute the mysterious tipster would have to testify in public. But that’s not likely as the chief criminal prosecutor for the county is saying the cost would probably prohibit it.
Meanwhile, a number of potential witnesses to Muhammad’s involvement in a document forgery ring and alien smuggling operation are being quietly rounded up by U.S. authorities, not for prosecution but deportation.
One such person who entered the country with false documents supplied by Muhammad is Antiguan Norman Manroe. Manroe was arrested on a drug charge in Connecticut and was set to be released on $50,000 bail when federal authorities intervened and took him into custody for deportation. Manroe had forged documents for five identities.
In Antigua Manroe had been arrested and imprisoned under one of his aliases for running drugs between Jamaica and Antigua. He had been in jail for two months before Muhammad first arrived on the island nation. Early on Muhammad visited Manroe in jail. Antigua authorities are attempting to trace the connection but are hampered by the numerous aliases both Manroe and Muhammad used.
The false document scandal has generated a firestorm in Antigua. The opposition political party is demanding an independent investigation of the bogus passports they say have been issued to Chinese and Russians transiting the country. About 5,000 passports a year are issued in Antigua.
The scandal has also lead to a combined effort of countries in the Caribbean, including Antigua and Jamaica, to set up procedures to screen deportees from the U.S. Antiguan authorities were notified by the INS that about 12,000 Jamaicans would be deported from the U.S. by the end of this year.
However, most scandalous of all is the ease with which Muhammad has escaped prosecution and managed to avoid a “rap sheet” on the FBI’s national database. In this writer’s previous article we mentioned several instances where prosecution seemed warranted. In one case Muhammad simply “walked away” from an Antigua police station after being held for two days and disappeared into his welter of aliases.
In another he was apprehended in Florida bringing in two aliens with false I.D. but was released without charges. His shoplifting charge in Tacoma on which he skipped bail and an arrest warrant was issued is not in the database. Neither was the restraining order his ex-wife obtained against him.
New documents and reports disclose several other arrests that did not appear on his record. Again in Florida Muhammad was arrested when caught with false I.D. Immigration authorities say they referred it to the U.S. Attorney who refused to prosecute. The U.S. Attorney’s office “denies it has any record” of the incident. (That’s not the same thing as saying it didn’t happen. Records can be shredded.)
Muhammad was also arrested twice in Tacoma for driving on a suspended license. There was no prosecution and the arrests were not to be found on the database.
The conclusion is inescapable that Muhammad was being protected by the government for some reason. Was he undercover tasked with infiltrating forgery and narcotics distribution rings or was he the real thing?
The most surreal aspect of the whole case is the shootings, the dialogue between the task force and (supposedly) the snipers, and the denouement at their capture. Despite Malvo’s alleged confession, the only real evidence against the two is the ballistics from the rifle that was recovered from the Chevrolet Caprice, or was it?
Except in “terrorism” cases, investigators are required to submit an inventory of items seized pursuant to a search warrant promptly. We were all treated to several hours of watching investigators mill around the car, supposedly waiting for a search warrant to be approved. It was said they were erring on the side of caution to make sure all the legal technicalities were observed. The Caprice was eventually put in an enclosed truck and taken to the ATF laboratory in Rockville, Maryland
When the inventory was submitted on October 29th by an FBI agent and an ATF agent it listed a number of items found “in and around the Caprice.” The second item listed was the Bushmaster rifle. Immediately below it was the following footnote.
“Because of certain limitations associated with the scope of the warrant not all of the above items were seized, even if observed. Additional warrants are being secured to permit search and seizure of additional items…”
The footnote certainly could not have legitimately referred to the rifle. Both the warrant issued in Seattle on the 23rd and the one obtained on the 24th pertained specifically to weapons along with any other collateral materials pertinent to the investigation. The footnote is a mystery since there is no indication that any additional warrants were requested or obtained.
Early media reports that quoted police as saying no weapons were found in the Caprice coupled with the strange footnote, might lead one to believe the weapon did not make its appearance until after the arrests.
Another weird aspect of the inventory was the notation that (found) “On the hood of the Caprice, a wallet containing drivers licenses in several different names – but all bearing Muhammad’s photograph.” Does this sound like a fugitive on the run or even a rational person leaving his wallet on the hood while he takes a nap?
Maybe those people have something that believe Muhammad and Malvo were under mind control and the phrase uttered by Chief Moose about trapped like a duck in a noose was a trigger to let themselves be captured. What do you think?
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The author is a freelance writer based in Romulus, Michigan. He is a former newspaper editor and investigative reporter, a retired customs administrator and accountant, and a student of history and the U.S. Constitution.
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