LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sheriff’s officials wrongfully returned a gun to a man who used it to kill his ex-wife inside a busy Southern California mall last weekend, even though a judge had ordered the weapon be confiscated by investigators, authorities said Wednesday.
Kevin Crane, 33, walked into the retail store where his ex-wife, Parisa Siddiqi, worked inside The Oaks mall in the city of Thousand Oaks, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of Los Angeles on Saturday, and fatally shot her after an argument, officials said. Crane then shot himself and remained hospitalized Wednesday.
Ventura County sheriff’s deputies arrested Crane in September 2014 on suspicion of felony domestic battery after they determined that he had struck Siddiqi during a dispute at their home, leaving her with minor injuries. During the arrest, the deputies seized a .40 caliber handgun that belonged to Crane “for safekeeping,” Sgt. Eric Buschow said, a sheriff’s office spokesman.
Prosecutors filed a misdemeanor domestic battery charge against Crane and asked a judge to confiscate his gun, which was being held by sheriff’s officials. Crane did not object to the petition and a judge formally ordered that the handgun be confiscated in November 2014, authorities said.
In January 2015, the charge was dismissed because Siddiqi stopped cooperating with investigators, the sheriff’s department said.
Crane later contacted the California Department of Justice and received a letter saying he was eligible to possess a gun. He later went to the sheriff’s office and the confiscated gun was returned to him, officials said.
Crane was legally allowed to purchase a gun — because he wasn’t convicted of a crime — but the sheriff’s department should not have returned the gun that was confiscated, Buschow said.
At the time, the sheriff’s department employees who returned the weapon were “unaware of the court’s order to confiscate the firearm at the time it was returned to Crane,” the sheriff’s department said in a statement.
Crane could have gone back and petitioned the court to overturn the order that confiscated his gun, but because he didn’t do that, the order remained in effect and officials should not have given him the weapon, Buschow said.
“The problem was they didn’t know about it,” Buschow said of the judge’s order. “Had we known about the order, we would have kept (the gun).”
The sheriff’s department said records show the court order had been received by their office about six months after the gun was wrongfully returned. An investigation has been launched to examine why there was a lapse between when the order issued and when it was received by sheriff’s officials.
“Clearly there was a breakdown here,” Buschow said.
By MICHAEL BALSAMO
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