Prosecutors Won’t Bring Charges in Death of Airport Executive in A.T.F. Raid


The federal agent who fatally shot the executive director of Little Rock’s airport during an early morning raid in March was justified in his use of force, an Arkansas prosecutor said on Friday, ruling out any charges.

Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had executed a search warrant at the home of the director, Bryan Malinowski, 53, on suspicion that he had repeatedly sold guns without a license.

After agents entered the house, which sits on quiet cul-de-sac in Little Rock, Mr. Malinowski fired at them, shooting one agent in the foot, the authorities said. Another agent returned fire, shooting Mr. Malinowski in the head. Two days later, Mr. Malinowski died in a hospital.

His death was met with outrage from his family, friends and gun-rights supporters in Arkansas and beyond, who believed that the raid on March 19 was ill-conceived and a case of government overreach. The raid also stunned residents and lawmakers across the state who wondered how a respected official could have been the target of an early morning raid.

Bryan Malinowski’s death was met with outrage from his family, friends and gun-rights supporters in Arkansas and beyond, who believed that the raid was ill-conceived and a case of government overreach.Credit…Clinton Airport

The A.T.F. said shortly after the raid that it had been investigating Mr. Malinowski for months after suspecting that he had been selling a large number of firearms at gun shows without a license, sometimes soon after he bought them. The agency also found that Mr. Malinowski had purchased more than 150 guns from 2021 to February 2024, including multiples of the same models; an A.T.F. affidavit did not specify exactly how many of those he had sold.

Several guns traced to Mr. Malinowski were recovered from crime scenes, according to the affidavit.

The local prosecutor for the Sixth Judicial District, Will Jones, said in a statement that video recorded by the Little Rock Police Department, which assisted in the raid, had revealed new details about what happened that morning.

According to Mr. Jones, who did not immediately respond to requests for comment, the video showed that at 6:02 a.m., a patrol officer turned on his vehicle’s emergency lights and siren “to announce the presence of law enforcement.” At that time, A.T.F. agents standing outside Mr. Malinowski’s door “began a series of knocking” and announced their presence, Mr. Jones said, citing the recording.

Twenty-eight seconds after knocking, agents used a ram to breach the door, he said.

Mr. Malinowski’s wife, Maer, told The New York Times in an interview that the couple had heard loud noises outside their bedroom door that morning. Mr. Malinowski told his wife to “stay back,” and reached into a drawer for a gun, she said, before walking out into the hallway. She walked behind him, and they saw figures in the darkness, Ms. Malinowski said.

The prosecutor’s office said the agents were dressed in khaki pants and dark-colored shirts that had the A.T.F. shield printed on one side, and “A.T.F. police” on the other. They also wore bulletproof vests emblazoned with the agency’s initials.

About 16 seconds after the agents breached the door, Mr. Malinowski pointed his gun at one agent. That agent “dropped to the ground and rolled to avoid potential gunfire,” the prosecutor’s office said.

At the same time, a second agent entered the house. Mr. Malinowski raised his gun toward that agent and shot him in the foot before the agent fired back, striking Mr. Malinowski, according to the prosecutor’s office.

The names of the agents were not released. Mr. Jones said in the statement that “given the totality of the circumstances,” the second agent “had a reasonable belief that deadly force was necessary to defend himself” and the other agent on the ground.

Bud Cummins, a lawyer for Mr. Malinowski’s family, said in a statement that the new details from the prosecutor’s office raised a question: “How long is it reasonable to wait for someone to answer their front door at 6 a.m. in response to unexplained loud pounding in a 3,000 square foot, fully insulated home?”

“Let’s pray the answer isn’t 28 seconds,” he said, adding: “This is far from over.”

Mr. Malinowski had served as the executive director of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport since 2019. His friends say that he viewed selling guns as a hobby, and that he sincerely believed that as a private seller, he was in compliance with federal law.

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