Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms

Handling of Suspect Lead in Langley/CIA Headquarters Shooting Incident Gao ID: OSI-94-11 April 26, 1994

In January 1993, a gunman killed two persons and wounded three others at an employee entrance to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) headquarters in Langley, Virginia. A Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) employee investigating the incident collected firearm sales records, including those of the suspected gunman, from a gun store in Northern Virginia and handled them in accordance with BATF regulations. The store manager and gunsmith claim that the gunsmith told the BATF agent that a composite sketch of the suspected gunman looked like the individual who, a few days earlier, had bought an AK-47 assault rifle from the store. Although the evidence developed during GAO's investigation tends to support the statements of the gunsmith and the store manager, the BATF agent denies that the gunsmith identified the composite. Further, although it was alleged that BATF's failure to follow up on important information allowed the suspect to flee the United States, GAO's investigation found that the suspect had left the country the day before the BATF agent visited the gun store.

GAO found that: (1) BATF agents joined the investigative task force on January 26, 1993, and on January 27, 1993, began contacting gun dealerships to identify purchasers of the kinds of weapons that the gunman may have used; (2) a gun store owner reported to local police on January 27, 1993, that during a check of weapons purchase records, a BATF agent repeatedly ignored a store manager's and employee's identification of a composite of the alleged gunman; (3) the local police forwarded the alleged gunman's weapons purchase records to the investigative task force but did not advise the task force about the composite recognition; (4) the task force identified the alleged gunman as a suspect on February 6, 1993, and issued an arrest warrant on February 9, 1993; (5) the task force confirmed that the alleged gunman left the country on January 26, 1993; and (6) BATF noted that the gun store manager and employee identified the suspect only after public identification had been made, and believes that they fabricated the story because of media pressure and to protect themselves from liability.

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