Arkansas airport executive killed in shootout was under investigation for weapons sales

Bryan Malinowski, executive director of Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, was fatally wounded in a shootout as ATF agents tried to serve a search warrant at his home.


An executive for the Little Rock, Arkansas, airport who was killed in a shootout with federal agents this week had been under investigation over gun sales, search warrant records unsealed Thursday show.

Bryan Malinowski, 53, who was executive director of Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport, was shot after he opened fire at federal agents who arrived to serve a warrant Tuesday morning, officials said, according to NBC News.

Malinowski died Thursday, his family said. His brother has said he was shot in the head.

An affidavit filed by an agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that was unsealed Thursday says the search involved an investigation into the sale of firearms without a license.

Malinowski opened fire on ATF agents who tried to serve a search warrant at his Little Rock home at around 6 a.m. Tuesday, the agency and Arkansas State Police have said.

An ATF agent was shot and suffered injuries that were not life-threatening, state police said.

The ATF said that "while ATF agents were serving the search warrant, a subject of the investigation opened fire at ATF agents resulting in an agent-involved shooting when an agent returned fire."

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 Malinowski, the affidavit says.

Investigators alleged in the document that Malinowski bought more than 150 guns from May 2021 to Feb. 27 and sold guns, including at gun shows.

Six guns were later recovered in the commission of a crime, and undercover ATF agents bought three others at gun shows, the document says. One of the guns cited in the affidavit was found on a 15-year-old Norteño gang member in California in 2022.

No charges have been filed against Malinowski. The unsealed documents relate to a search warrant looking for evidence.

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

They said their thoughts and prayers go out to the agent who was injured and to the agent’s family.

But they also questioned why the ATF conducted what they characterized as a dawn 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 in the statement, released by an attorney acting as their spokesperson.

“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.

Malinowski would order guns online, including AR-style pistols, have them shipped to a business that is redacted in the affidavit and pick them up there, the ATF agent wrote in the court document.

Malinowski 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 license is illegal, before that business transferred the guns to him, the affidavit alleges.

Malinowski was seen at gun shows operating as a vendor and selling guns without asking for any ID or paperwork, the affidavit says. He told an undercover agent that because they were private sales, no paperwork was needed, according to the affidavit.

"For now, we will wait for all the facts to come out," Malinowski's family said in Thursday's statement. "In the meantime, we ask that the public and the media respect our privacy."

Malinowski was executive director of the airport and an employee there for 16 years.

The search warrant affidavit mentions two laws in seeking authorization for a search — one that restricts commerce in guns to licensed dealers and the other dealing with making fictitious statements about acquiring firearms.

A search warrant receipt lists more than 40 firearms, ammunition, tax returns and records, and a vendor tag, among other items.

NBC News' Colin Sheeley contributed.

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