Cop’s Widow Takes Aim at Straw Purchaser Sale

     PHILADELPHIA (CN) – A Pennsylvania police officer survived two tours in Iraq only to be shot to death by a hit-and-run driver who had bought the gun illegally through a straw purchaser, the widow claims in a lawsuit against the store that sold the gun.
     The late Bradley M. Fox, 34, was killed on Sept. 13, 2012 – the day before his birthday. His wife was pregnant at the time. The hit and run driver, Andrew Thomas, then killed himself, according to the lawsuit.
     Lynsay Fox sued L&J Supply dba In Site Firearms & Law Enforcement Supplies, its owner Luke J. Kelly III, and its president William H. Gordon, in Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas.
     In the lawsuit, filed Monday, Lynsay Fox claims the store in Jeffersonville sold the 9 mm Beretta pistol that killed her husband to (nonparty) Michael Henry, “a known drug addict, who acted as a ‘straw purchaser’ for Thomas.”
     “Thomas was prohibited by federal law from purchasing or possessing firearms due to a 2005 felony arrest,” the complaint states. “Thomas also was the prime suspect in the disappearance of his fiancée in 1999. Despite being unable to pass a background check himself, Thomas was able to acquire the 9mm Beretta from In Site by having Henry act as a straw purchaser and illegally and fraudulently complete firearm purchase paperwork … .
     “In fact, from April 10, 2012 through July 31, 2012, Henry straw purchased at least nine different guns for Thomas. Six of the guns Thomas bought through Henry were acquired from In Site. The gun used to kill Officer Fox is the only gun of the nine to have been recovered. According to authorities, the remaining guns are believed to remain in circulation in the criminal market.”
     The widow claims that In Site “was aware of facts and circumstances sufficient for it to have known or to have had reasonable cause to believe that Henry was a straw purchaser and a drug addict, who was not purchasing the handgun lawfully for himself but rather was profiting by making an unlawful purchase for another individual prohibited from buying a firearm. …
     “But for the wrongful conduct of In Site, straw purchaser Henry would not have succeeded in buying the handgun for Thomas, and Officer Fox would not have been shot and killed.”
     Henry was sentenced to 20 to 66 years in prison, the widow says.
     She says that the “recognizes that approximately 90 percent of firearms dealers sell no guns traced to crimes.”
     “But when gun dealers irresponsibly supply the criminal market with unlawfully obtained firearms, they cause harm that is reasonably foreseeable, such as the senseless murder of a decorated police officer, Bradley Fox, and they profit from sales that endanger the public. They also unfairly tarnish the reputations of responsible gun sellers who supply responsible, law-abiding citizens with firearms for lawful purposes.”
     She adds: “Tragically, the problem lies with a small fraction of ‘bad apple’ dealers who act irresponsibly. Just over 1 percent of the nation’s firearms dealers supply roughly 60 percent of all crime guns traced by law enforcement.”
     She seeks damages for negligence, negligent entrustment, gross negligence, conspiracy, aiding and abetting, public nuisance, and loss of consortium.
     She is represented by Hope Freiwald with Dechert LLP of Philadelphia, and by Jonathan Lowy with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington, D.C.

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