Arkansas airport director killed in shootout with federal agents amid weapons sales probe

Bryan Malinowski (Stephen Swofford)
Bryan Malinowski (Stephen Swofford)

An executive for the Little Rock, Arkansas airport was killed in a shootout with federal agents on Tuesday amid a weapons sales probe, authorities have said.

Bryan Malinowski, 53, who was executive director of Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport, was shot at his home after he opened fire at federal agents who arrived to serve a warrant at around 6am on Tuesday morning, officials said.

The 53-year-old died on Thursday, his family said, after being shot in the head.

An ATF agent was also shot and suffered non life-threatening injuries, according to state police.

Following the shootout, search warrant records unsealed on Thursday showed federal agents obtained a warrant as part of an investigation into Mr Malinowski for allegedly selling firearms without a license.

The investigation began in November when authorities in Canada received a photo of firearms from a confidential informant and after visible serial numbers showed they were bought by Mr Malinowski, according to an affidavit.

Investigators alleged that Mr Malinowski had bought more than 150 guns from May 2021 to 27 February this year, including AR-style pistols, and shipped them to a business that is redacted in the affidavit where he picked them up.

The affidavit alleges that he filled out ATF Form 4773, which warns that a gun can’t be for someone else and that the “repetitive purchase of firearms” in order to sell them for a profit without a licence is illegal, before the weapons were handed over to him.

The document also accuses Mr Malinowski of selling guns, including at gun shows. At one show, he was allegedly seen selling firearms to a customer without asking for any ID or paperwork.

Investigators said he told an undercover agent that because they were private sales, no paperwork was needed.

According to the affidavit, filed by an agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, six guns were later recovered in the commission of a crime, and undercover ATF agents bought three others at gun shows.

One of the guns cited in the affidavit was found on a 15-year-old Norteño gang member in California in 2022, the document added.

In a statement released on Thursday, Mr Malinowski’s family said that they have “endured an unspeakable tragedy and one that is almost impossible to understand.”

They also questioned why the ATF conducted what they characterized as a raid on a private home that led to the gunfire.

“Even if the allegations in the affidavit are true, they don’t begin to justify what happened,” the family said, adding: “At worst, Bryan Malinowski, a gun owner and gun enthusiast, stood accused of making private firearm sales to a person who may not have been legally entitled to purchase the guns.”

The family said they are now waiting for “all the facts to come out.”

“In the meantime, we ask that the public and the media respect our privacy.”

Mr Malinowski was an executive director at Little Rock airport where he worked for 16 years.