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Sunday, June 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Straw Gun Sales Blamed for Oregon Slaying

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) - A man set a woman on fire and shot her to death with guns his mother bought for him illegally through an online gun broker and pawnshop, the woman's sister claims in court.

Vivian Englund sued World Pawn Exchange and online gun broker J&G II dba J&G Sales on Jan. 7 in Multnomah County Court. She also sued pawn shop owner Richard James Sinatra, and Diane Boyce, the mother of Jeffrey Boyce, who killed Englund's sister, Kirsten.

Jeffrey Boyce killed 57-year-old Kirsten Englund as she stood at a scenic overlook on Highway 101, on April 28, 2013, her sister says.

Boyce shot Kirsten, whom he had never met, as she gazed at a lighthouse on the Pacific Ocean, then poured gasoline over her and lit her on fire and shot her again, her sister says.

Boyce then stole two cars at gunpoint before police arrested him at a Northern California shopping mall. He was never tried for the murder or the carjackings. Police found him dead in his Marin County Jail cell on June 21, 2013 where he was awaiting arraignment.

Boyce, whose prior criminal convictions prohibited him from buying guns, got his hands on an AK-47 and two semi-automatic pistols through the pawn shop and online gun broker, who ignored "numerous red flags" and sold the guns to his mother, Vivian Englund says.

She says the pawn shop irresponsibly sold the guns to straw buyer Diane Boyce, who bought them for her mentally ill son.

Diane Boyce bought an AK-47 online from J&G Sales in December 2011, according to the complaint, then picked it up at World Pawn Exchange in Coos Bay, Ore.

In the next two months, she also bought a Makarov 9mm semi-automatic pistol and a Rock Island semi-automatic pistol from the same broker and pawn shop, the lawsuit states.

Jeremy Reed, who is not a party to the case, has been a manager at World Pawn for 7 years. Reed said anyone can buy a gun from an online broker without a background check. The broker sends the guns to be picked up in person, and that's where the buyer has to prove eligibility to buy a gun, Reed told Courthouse News.

"J&G sales doesn't check any of that when they take their order in," Reed said. "I'm assuming a 15-year-old could buy a gun, too. They don't do a background check on the credit card they use online."

Reed said he remembered the sales to Diane Boyce. He disputed that there were any "red flags."

"She came in and said the gun was for her," Reed said. "We said OK, we can't prove her wrong. And her background check cleared. Then when the incident happened, the ATF investigated and cleared her and us."

But Englund says Boyce knew her son was sick.

"Ms. Boyce told law enforcement that before he killed Kirsten Englund, Jeffrey Boyce was bi-polar and psychotic and had been suffering from delusions that the government had bugged him, his car, and his phone," the lawsuit states.

Englund says the pawn shop let Jeffrey Boyce pay for two of the guns with his credit card. The shop's invoice for one of the guns states: "SOLD TO: JEFFREY BOYCE FOR TRANSFER," according to the complaint.

"Predictably, the illegally transferred guns reached a person who should not have had them: a dangerous and delusional, mentally ill, 30 year-old man named Jeffrey Boyce, the son of straw purchaser Diane Boyce," the lawsuit states.

Englund says J&G Sales showed little regard for federal regulations. On the "FAQ" section on its website, it states: "Aren't all these rules unconstitutional according to the 2nd amendment? Yes. The 2nd amendment, as commonly accepted by most constitutional scholars, means just what it says; I know, why do we need scholars to tell us it means just what it says?. It clearly says that your right to own a firearm is not to be infringed. Every law congress [sic] passes restricting firearms is just that - an infringement."

Englund says the pawn shop should have abided by ATF recommendations in its guide, "Don't Lie for the Other Guy: A Retailer's Guide to Recognizing and Deterring Straw-man Purchases."

The guide tells retailers to ask the following questions "for all purchasers you do not personally know."

"1. Is the handgun for you or for someone else? 2. If someone else, is this a gift? 3. What is the intended use - personal protection, deer hunting, target shooting? 4. What type of firearm are you interested in or most comfortable with?"

The guide tells retailers to abandon the transaction if they are suspicious of a potential buyer's answers.

"If suspicions arise, it is more prudent to follow the precautionary principle of politely refusing the sale to protect yourself from the risk of contributing to a possible illegal transaction," the guide states. "It's not just good business. It's your responsibility."

Englund claims the pawn shop did not follow its responsibility to ensure that its guns did not fall into the hands of someone dangerous.

Reed said World Pawn's owner, defendant Richard Sinatra, is careful about keeping guns out of the wrong hands.

"He's as strict as he can be about selling guns to people who can't have them," Reed said. "We don't willingly and knowingly sell to felons or straw purchasers because we don't want that kind of publicity."

A representative for J&G Sales who identified himself only as "Ian" declined to comment.

Englund's attorney Thomas D'Amore was in depositions all day on Tuesday and unable to return requests for comment.

Englund seeks $9 million in damages and punitive damages for wrongful death, negligence, gross negligence, negligent entrustment and public nuisance.

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