Suspected Alabama church shooter had received warning letter from ATF over missing gun inventory

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VESTAVIA HILLS, Ala. (WIAT) – Robert F. Smith, a 70-year-old man who prosecutors say shot and killed three people inside an Alabama church Thursday, was a licensed gun dealer, according to government records. Federal inspection reports show that Smith had received a warning letter from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in 2018 related to missing gun inventory.

Smith was charged with capital murder in the shooting at St. Stephen’s Church in Vestavia Hills on Friday. Police said Smith came to a small group event at the church — a senior potluck — and opened fire, killing three people: Bart Rainey, Sarah Yeager and Jane Pounds.

Smith’s home in Vestavia Hills is registered with the ATF as the primary address for Original Magazines 2, a business with a federal firearms license. The license is valid until 2025, according to ATF records.

But federal inspection reports compiled by news outlet The Trace show that Smith had received a warning letter from the ATF in 2018 involving missing inventory and incomplete record-keeping.

According to the database, the warning letter was issued in February 2018. The letter said Smith had 86 firearms on hand, compared to 97 listed in his records. Smith “failed to the record the disposition” of multiple firearms, the letter said.

The letter also cited issues with Smith’s recordkeeping, saying that he “failed to record” necessary information like addresses and license numbers in records as required by law.

Kelley Hudlow, a church official with the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama, said shootings such as this one are “something you never expect to happen in your community.”

“The one thing we know is that St. Stephen’s is a church community and is built on love and grace and prayer, and they are going to come together,” Hudlow said.

Smith is currently being held without bond, authorities said Friday.



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