Home / US / Rifles used in deadly Riverside shooting were untraceable "ghost gun," sources say

Rifles used in deadly Riverside shooting were untraceable "ghost gun," sources say

The semi-automatic rifle used by a convicted felon in a gun battle with police off Highway 215 on Monday, killing CHP officer Andre Moye and wounding two of his colleagues, was a "ghost gun" that cannot be tracked by authorities, according to Law enforcement sources.

Investigators have publicly described the weapon used in the firearm only as a rifle, but a law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation told The Times that Aaron Luther used an "AR-15 rifle" in the deadly gun battle. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter honestly.

Ghost guns are unserialized weapons manufactured from parts that can be ordered by mail or machined parts acquired from underground manufacturers.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have not been able to trace the weapon used by Luther, said two law enforcement sources with knowledge of the investigation.

Luther, a convicted felon with an extensive criminal background, would not have been allowed to possess a firearm by law in California because of his criminal record.

The authorities see a proliferation of such untraceable weapons.

"About a third of all firearms seized in Southern California are now unserialized, and it is expected to grow," said Ginger Colbrun, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles-area ATF office.

Those with long criminal histories, according to lawmakers, usually buy their weapons in the black underground gun sales market. In a raid last year, authorities recovered 45 ghost guns after a six-month undercover operation in Hollywood. In that case, some of the weapons were made by a bunch of assault weapons.

An AR-1

5 like the one owned by Luther shoots small but high speed bullets and can be modified to use large capacity magazines. The .223 caliber rounds often burst into the victims' bodies, and create more devastating injuries than wounds usually left by larger but lower-speed handguns.

A source familiar with the weapon recovered from Luther after he was killed said it
the newspaper probably had a capacity of
30 rounds and that he could fire a large number of rounds before Riverside police and sheriff's deputies joined the gun battle and cut him down on Highway 215.

Investigators are still trying to determine how Luther came to possess the weapon.

Court records show Luther pleaded guilty to one count of attempted murder and two counts of burglary in Los Angeles County in 1994. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison and was sentenced
was granted parole in 2004, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The Beaumont resident had also been convicted of disturbing the peace, vandalism, battery, stalking, unlawful possession of a firearm, assault with a deadly weapon and bodily injury of a spouse previously, officials said.

Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz said the gun battle that ultimately killed Moye, 34, was "long and dreadful" and left investigators with multiple crime scenes to investigate. Moye, who has been with the CHP for almost three years, was taken to a Moreno Valley hospital after the shooting, where he was pronounced dead. The other two CHP officials injured in the shooting game are expected to recover, says head of the inland division Bill Dance.

The fatal meeting began at 05:35 when Moye stopped Luther, who was driving a white GMC pickup, on the Eastridge Avenue / Eucalyptus Avenue offramp. At one point during the traffic stop – for reasons not yet known – Moye decided to toss the man's vehicle and called for a tow truck, said CHP Inland Division Assistant Chief Scott Parker.

It was not immediately clear where Luther was heading when he was stopped. While Moye was filling out paperwork, the man received a rifle from his truck and began firing at the officer, Parker said.

"We don't know why" the shooting began, Riverside Police spokesman Ryan Railsback said. "That will all be part of this long investigation."

Moye returned fire, and even though he had been shot, he could send radio for help. Three other CHP officials soon arrived, followed by three deputies from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department and at least one officer from the Riverside Police Department, authorities said.

Ghost guns are legal for those who own firearms. But California requires that anyone building a weapon apply for a unique serial number at the state Department of Justice and that number be put on the firearm. The weapon must comply with California firearms laws.

Police specialists say that those who are prohibited from buying a gun can still buy the partially lower receiver, known as an "80% lower", and then buy the other parts of the weapon.

In 2013, John Zawahri killed five people in the Santa Monica area with the help of an AR-15 rifle, which he built from a partially manufactured lower receiver that did not have a serial number and therefore did not need to be registered. Police said the parts needed to mount a functioning rifle, including ammunition magazines, were shipped in from state land.

When LAPD and ATF netted 45 ghost guns from a gang last year, a top ATF agent described the growing problem posed by the weapons.
"Criminals make their own weapons because they can't buy them legally … or they pay other people to make those weapons to get around the gun laws," said Bill McMullan, then the special agent in charge of the ATF's field department in LA

A series
numbers are issued only to the lower receiver of a weapon. Some California legislators are trying to require a background check for all gun parts to stifle ghost gun replacement.

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