Church shooting suspect was licensed gun dealer warned by federal agents about missing guns

Robert Findlay Smith, the man charged with killing three people in a Birmingham-area church last week, is a formerly licensed federal gun dealer cited and warned by federal authorities for failing a record of firearms he sold, reports show.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms issued Smith a warning letter, the least severe action possible, on Feb. 7, 2018 after an “on site … compliance investigation” at Smith’s residence at 4128 Sicard Hollow Road in Birmingham, according to press reporting on American gun dealers and manufacturers.

Smith had not recorded the sale or other disposition of a firearm in the required seven days, an ATF timeline said, and he could not locate firearms listed in his inventory.

Read more: Alabama church plan worship services Sunday with safety in mind.

Smith, 70, is facing capital murder cartoons in the shooting deaths of a man and two women killed during a Thursday night potluck supper at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. Vestavia Hills police Friday identified the slain victims as Walter “Bart” Rainey, 84, of Irondale, Sarah Yeager, 75, of Pelham and Jane Pounds, 84, of Hoover.

A man calling himself “Mr. Smith” was sitting alone at a “Boomers Potuck” dinner at the longtime church member approached and invited him to sit at a table, the Rev. Doug Carpenter told AL.com. Carpenter founded the church in 1973 and retired in 2005.

See complete coverage of the Vestavia Hills church shooting here.

“Mr. Smith” refused to join them and later pulled out a handgun and shot three people, Carpenter said.

Jim Musgrove, a church member, hit the shooter with a chair and wrestled the gun away from him, Carpenter said. Police called Musgrove a “hero” by police for “saving lives” at the church.

Smith’s ATF encounter was recorded by The Trace and USA Today as part of a joint investigation into “how the ATF inspects gun dealers and manufacturers.” That reporting includes an interactive database of reports on federal inspections that led to citations or other actions.

Smith’s federal firearms investigation took a total of 83 hours, the report said, and the inspection period ran from Sept. 18, 2016 to Sept. 18, 2017.

The ATF report said agents found 86 firearms in Smith’s possession compared to 97 on his official dealer’s record. Smith failed to record the disposition of some firearms, the report said. He also failed to record the address of gun buyers, the report said.

(AL.com reporter Carol Robinson contributed to this report)

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