Friday, February 09, 2001

Pickett passed gun check


Bought weapon at Indiana pawn shop

The Associated Press

        EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Despite a history of mental illness and at least one suicide attempt, Robert W. Pickett was able to walk into a pawn shop and buy the gun he later fired outside the White House, the shop's manager said Thursday.

        Mr. Pickett, 47, bought the handgun a year ago after passing instant state and federal criminal background checks, said David Sisson, operations manager at Casey's Pawn Shop.

READ PICKETT'S LETTER
  Robert Pickett sent a copy of a letter to The Enquirer last week describing his despair over a long dispute with his former employers at the Cincinnati IRS office.
Photo imageText only
        A Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent linked the five-shot, .38-caliber handgun to the pawn shop through a serial number, Mr. Sisson said. The ATF referred questions about the sale to U.S. Park Police, which did not return calls.

        Evansville police said Mr. Pickett, a fired Cincinnati Internal Revenue Service auditor and an accountant in Evansville, did not have a criminal record.

        In Indiana, gun buyers must fill out state and federal forms for a background check if they don't already have a permit. Both forms ask whether the applicant has ever been adjudicated mentally defective or been sent to a mental institution by a court.

        State Police are called after the forms are filled out and the sale is either approved, denied or put on hold.

        “You can buy a gun in an hour,” said Maj. Karen Butt of the Indiana State Police.

        Mr. Pickett's responses on the forms were not disclosed Thursday.

        In a lawsuit Mr. Pickett filed over his firing, he said he suffered from mental illness and had tried to kill himself by overdosing on psychiatric medication.

        He said he suffered a “severe depression episode” in 1993 and was treated by a Baltimore psychiatrist. Officials close to Fellowship House, a treatment center in Baltimore, confirmed he received treatment there.

        But there is no evidence so far that Mr. Pickett's treatment was anything but voluntary.

        Unless a gun buyer has been arrested or convicted in connection with some type of mental illness, there is essentially no way to know if the person is telling the truth about being mentally ill, said Robert Meeks, a retired state trooper and now a state senator.
       

Charges weighed
        Meanwhile, federal authorities on Thursday were weighing what charges to file against against Mr. Pickett, who remained in good condition after being shot in the right knee by a Secret Service officer outside the White House on Wednesday.

        Justice Department officials were considering whether to charge him with violating the District of Columbia's gun law, which carries a maximum five-year sentence, or a federal count of assaulting a federal officer, with a maximum 10-year sentence.

        Law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said that a suicide note was found in Mr. Pickett's vehicle, found at a commuter rail station in Fairfax County, Va., outside Washington.

        Channing Phillips, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, said the court could be asked for an initial examination to evaluate Mr. Pickett's ability to understand legal proceedings.
       


       



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