Lucas won't face charges in AR-15 case
District Attorney says there is insufficient evidence that Lake Oswego pastor illegally transferred the rifle to a parishioner
No charges will be filed against the Rev. Jeremy Lucas in a case involving the transfer of an AR-15 rifle he won in a softball team raffle, the Oregon State Police announced Thursday morning.
OSP spokesman Capt. Bill Fugate called the investigation challenging, due to the lack of any evidence supporting the allegations that Lucas had violated state law by asking a parishioner to store the weapon.
The allegations came to light in July after Lucas, who passed a background check at a local gun shop before taking possession of the AR-15, told The Washington Post that he and his wife then drove it to the home of a parishioner, a responsible gun owner, who offered to keep the rifle locked up in a gun safe until the pastor is ready to destroy it.
But investigators were unable to obtain a voluntary statement from Lucas, Fugate said Thursday, and no one came forward with the name of the parishioner who had allegedly taken possession of the rifle.
That made it difficult to prove or disprove this crime had occurred, Fugate said.
Investigators initially forwarded their findings to the Clackamas County District Attorneys Office on Aug. 25, but District Attorney John Foote returned the case to them, saying it was insufficient and suggesting recommendations for possible follow-up. Foote said he received a follow-up report on Sept. 9 and still reached the same conclusion.
None of the witnesses nor documentary evidence obtained by Oregon State Police prove that an actual transfer occurred, Foote said. The suspects statement to the media that he gave it to someone for safekeeping is insufficient to prove that it did happen.
Without the name of the parishioner, Foote said, I dont think we could ever have a prosecutable case. Therefore I am declining prosecution for insufficient evidence.
Lucas spent $3,000 from a church discretionary fund and member donations to buy 150 raffle tickets in the District 2 Big League Softball Team raffle in July. At the time, he said he had two goals: to help the girls team get to a California tournament and to take the weapon out of circulation.
Lucas won, and he told The Review he planned to transform the assault rifle into a piece or pieces of art.
Its a small, symbolic act, he said. There are millions of guns, I know that. But this gun will never be used to kill kids in schools, kill people in a movie theater, kill people at an office party or at any other place of mass shootings. This gun will never be found by a child who accidently shoots a friend. ... It will never be stolen and used to commit a crime or used to threaten a family in a domestic violence situation.
"If I had the chance for $3,000 to keep any of these things from happening even one time Id do it again in a second, he said.
But Lucas's comments to The Washington Post about his handling of the weapon after the raffle sparked a firestorm of protest. For the transfer of possession to be legal under Oregon law, the Christ Church Episcopal parishioner should have undergone a background check at a licensed gun dealer while Lucas was present. If that did not happen, Lucas could have committed a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $6,250 and as much as a year in jail.
Organizations that opposed the law during deliberations last year quickly took note, including the Oregon Firearms Federation. OFF Executive Director Kevin Starrett sent an email to the OSP, the Lake Oswego Police Department and 30 state lawmakers, pointing out Lucas's apparent violation of the law and asking for an investigation.
According to the OSP report released Thursday, Lake Oswego Police Chief Don Johnson contacted the agency on Aug. 4 and told them that his department had received an anonymous email from a citizen with concerns that Lucas had transferred the firearm without a background check, thereby violating ORS166.435. The email cited a story published in The Review on July 28 in which Lucas stated that he'd given the rifle to "a responsible gun owner" to be stored in their gun safe.
The report states that OSP Trooper Tracy Clark verified that Lucas had legally acquired the weapon from the softball team, but "what happened to the AR-15 after that is factually unknown." Clark attempted to contact Lucas, but was told by his attorney that he did not want to give a statement.
The identity of the original email sender remains unknown, the OSP report said, as does the identity of the parishioner to whom Lucas allegedly gave the gun.
"Based on the totality of the circumstances in this investigation," Clark's report concludes, "and without further evidence to support an AR-15 was actually transferred to another party by Lucas, probable cause does not exist at this time to prove the firearm was transferred by an unlicensed person (private party) to another."
Lucas could not be reached for comment. On Thursday, Starrett issued a brief statement to The Review.
"We fully expect the Oregon State Police to apply the same treatment to every young black man in north Portland who is suspected of a crime but simply refuses to answer his door," Starrett said.