- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 8, 2002

Federal authorities are investigating whether the rifle used in a multistate sniper killing spree was stolen by an employee of a Tacoma, Wash., gun store and sold "off the books" before the shootings began.
Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the Internal Revenue Service, unable to determine where sniper suspects John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo got the .223-caliber Bushmaster XM15 semiautomatic rifle authorities believe was used in the killings, focused on the theft theory late last month.
The $1,600 weapon was traced through ballistics tests to several of the victims in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia and the District. The gun was found in Mr. Muhammad's car at the time of his arrest at a Maryland highway rest stop.
The weapon was delivered by the manufacturer July 2 to Bull's Eye Shooter Supply Inc. in Tacoma, but authorities said the store has been unable to produce the rifle or a sales receipt showing when the rifle was purchased. Gun dealers are required by law to keep records showing when the weapon was sold and to whom.
ATF and IRS agents armed with search warrants raided Bull's Eye on Wednesday, taking several boxes of documents from the store. They also removed other documents and material from the home of the store's owner, Brian Borgelt.
Officials at Bull's Eye, according to federal law enforcement authorities, have been unable to produce the required sales records or account for more than 150 weapons. Investigators have focused on accusations that some of them may have been sold "off the books," meaning the purchases were not official and not recorded.
Mr. Borgelt did not return calls this week to his office for comment.
The rifle authorities believe was used in the sniper killings was on display at the Tacoma store with a variety of accessories, according to authorities, although employees told investigators they never noticed that it had disappeared and never reported that it had been stolen.
Mr. Muhammad, 41, should not have been able to purchase the weapon because of a pending restraining order filed by his ex-wife, Mildred Denise Williams, which said he had threatened to kidnap their three children. The Pierce County, Wash., order specifically prevented him from possessing a firearm.
Mr. Malvo, 17, also would not have been allowed to buy the rifle, because he is a minor and an illegal alien awaiting a deportation hearing.
The two men were arrested Oct. 24 while sleeping in a blue 1990 Chevrolet Caprice police believe was used during a three-week shooting spree that killed 10 persons and wounded three in Maryland, the District and Virginia. They are also charged with shootings in Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia, and are suspected in a shooting in Washington state.
Mr. Muhammad faces capital murder charges in Prince William County in the Oct. 9 shooting of Dean Harold Meyers, 53, who was fatally shot as he pumped gas at a station in Manassas. He is scheduled for a court hearing Dec. 12 in Prince William County on a pending request by several media outlets that the court allow video coverage of his trial.
Mr. Malvo has been named on capital murder charges in the Oct. 3 shooting death of FBI analyst Linda Franklin, 47, who was killed outside a Home Depot at the Seven Corners Shopping Center in Fairfax County. He is scheduled to appear in court Jan. 14 for a preliminary hearing, when it will be determined whether he is to be tried as an adult.

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