Four times in the past year, Fredrick Scott reported to police that a handgun had been stolen from him.
Police now suspect he used those guns in the shooting deaths of five people in Kansas City and reported them stolen to throw off investigators, according to court documents filed in support of murder charges against Scott in two of the deaths.
But those stolen gun reports should have drawn authorities to Scott, an ATF expert said Thursday.
Brian Darby, the son of Michael Darby, the fourth murder victim in the five south Kansas City homicides police have linked, questioned whether the last of the deaths could have been prevented.
“Alarms should have been going off,” Darby said. “If someone called in multiple gun thefts multiple times, that person should have been immediately spoken to.”
Kansas City Police Capt. Stacey Graves said the department could not talk about the case against Scott because it remains an open investigation, so it is not known whether police did check out the reports.
But when the department, in any situation, receives separate stolen gun reports from the same person, Graves said, “that should raise some red flags.”
The moment someone reports a second separate gun theft, police should be visiting the theft victim, said Mark Jones of Chicago, a retired supervisory special agent in the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
The victim is either complicit in the theft or the victim needs to do a better job protecting firearms from theft.
“I can see where you can report a gun stolen because you know it’s going to be used in a crime, but I think you can only get away with that once,” Jones said.
Police arrested Scott on Aug. 17 and prosecutors the next day charged him with the murders of Steven Gibbons, 57, and John Palmer, 54. He was named a suspect in the deaths of David Lenox, 67; Timothy S. Rice, 57, of Excelsior Springs; and Darby, 61, all near south Kansas City trails.
The first three fatal shootings occurred within days — even hours — of Scott’s stolen gun reports, according to court documents that outline all five killings. It is unclear when the fourth gun was reported stolen.
After the first three fatal killings and stolen gun reports, two more people would die by gunshots to the back of the head.
The last of the victims, Steven Gibbons, was gunned down after getting off a bus on Troost Avenue Aug. 13.
If police had been quicker to put the case for serial murders together, Darby said, “Mr. Gibbons might still be here.”
The Kansas City Police Department, Graves said, has an illegal firearms squad and crime analysts who gather crime reports, “which detectives do follow up on.”
When asked about whether Scott’s stolen gun reports should have raised concerns, she said, “That is something that is being investigated. It will be something we look at.”
Police continue to ask the public for clues in the deaths. Anyone who had contact with Scott, who is in the Jackson County Jail on $500,000 bond, may have important information without even realizing it, they said. They asked anyone with information to call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-8477.
The court documents that supported the murder charges included details of the guns and the shell casings evidence connected with each murder scene.
In all, Scott bought four guns between Aug. 15, 2016, and June 20, 2017. Scott reported each of them stolen. Three were not recovered, but a fourth gun was found in Scott’s apartment, court documents say.
“Scott admitted that the reason he reported the handguns stolen was to disassociate himself from the handguns he used in the shootings,” the court document said.
The first gun Scott reported stolen was a 9mm handgun on Aug. 17, 2016. Two days later, John Palmer was shot several times and dragged into a wooded area near the trail at Bannister Road and Lydia Avenue. Two shell casings stamped “RP 9mm Luger” were found nearby.
On Feb. 22, Scott reported that another 9mm handgun had been stolen, the statement said. Five days later David Lenox was shot in the back of the head near his residence in the Willow Creek Apartments, which border the trail. A single Blazer .380 caliber spent shell was found at the scene. Firearms experts noted that the casing could have been fired from a 9mm handgun, the court documents said.
On April 4, Scott reported the theft of a Taurus M709, 9mm gun. That same day Timothy Rice was shot multiple times in the head near the trail under a shelter house in Minor Park. Several spent Win Luger 9mm shell casings were found near the scene.
On May 18 Michael Darby was shot in the back of the head while on the Indian Creek Trail. Officers found a .22 caliber shell casing near his body.
On Aug. 13 Steven Gibbons was shot in the back of the head after he got off a bus near 67th Street and Troost Avenue.
The record is unclear when Scott reported a fourth gun stolen. A 9mm handgun was recovered from Scott’s apartment in the 3300 block of Bridge Manor Drive in south Kansas City when police served a search warrant Aug. 17 following Gibbons’ shooting.
The burden of collecting and sorting through individual gun theft reports is on the local law enforcement agencies, said John Hamm, an ATF spokesman in Kansas City. The ATF only collects gun theft reports from licensed gun dealers who are required to report thefts.