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Federal indictment filed against southern Utah man after rifle he bought used in killing

By Pat Reavy, KSL | Posted - Apr. 13, 2019 at 7:20 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — A federal grand jury has filed an indictment against a 20-year-old St. George man who prosecutors say bought a gun and then gave it to someone else who used it in a fatal shooting.

John Cody Thompson was indicted Wednesday by a grand jury for making a false statement during the purchase of a firearm, according to court records. The co-defendant in the case is Bronson Joseph Flynn, 26, of Ivins, Washington County, who is accused of shooting and killing Spencer Maluafiti Tafua, 34, outside the One and Only Bar in St. George on Dec. 29.

Flynn is also charged in 5th District Court with murder, a first-degree felony; two counts of aggravated assault, a third-degree felony; threatening to use a weapon during a fight, a class A misdemeanor; plus DUI, possession of drug paraphernalia, and carrying a weapon while under the influence, class B misdemeanors.

After the shooting, St. George police found Flynn still sitting in his car, which was running, at the bar parking lot. An assault rifle was found in the front passenger seat, according to a Washington County Jail report.

Tafua, 34, went to Pine View High School in St. George, was a father of four and a former high school football star.

According to the federal indictment, the Springfield Armory 5.56 caliber rifle allegedly used in the killing was purchased at Sportsman's Warehouse in St. George by Thompson. Thompson filled out paperwork before purchasing the gun claiming it was for himself, the indictment states. But prosecutors say the rifle was actually bought for Flynn.

A search warrant affidavit filed in 5th District Court by St. George police states that investigators traced the serial number of the rifle back to the St. George store where they discovered it was purchased on Dec. 17. Police reviewed the document signed by Thompson in which he asserted he was buying the rifle for himself, the warrant states.

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Investigators also reviewed store surveillance video from that day and noted that Flynn was with Thompson and that they drove to the store together.

"While they are at the gun register it appears Bronson was interested in looking at a specific gun. Bronson points to the gun when he is alone with John. An employee then comes over to assist them and pulls the rifle described above from the display after John appears to request it. The firearm is pulled from the same area that Bronson was pointing to," the warrant states. "The purchase of the firearm was completed using cash as the payment. Bronson is not present at this time but other camera views show Bronson selecting ammunition and purchasing the ammunition."

It was also determined that both men were at a local bank together withdrawing cash before going to Sportsman Warehouse.

"Investigators believe at this time that Bronson withdrew cash and provided that cash to John who in turn purchased a firearm that it appears Bronson had an interest in, selected and handled at Sportsman’s Warehouse," the warrant states.

Both men will make appearances in federal court in St. George on Monday. If they are convicted, they could be sentenced to up to 10 years in federal prison.

This is the second case in a month for U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber involving someone purchasing a gun that ended up in the hands of another person who used it to allegedly commit a murder.

On March 13, Sarah Emily Lady, 24, of Mapleton, and Nathan Daniel Vogel, 21, of Millcreek, were charged federally for allegedly making a "straw" purchase of a Beretta PX4 Storm .40-caliber handgun and then loaning the gun to an "acquaintance," according to a federal indictment.

Five days after loaning the weapon, Melvin Rowland used it to shoot Lauren McCluskey in a parking lot outside her campus dorm at the University of Utah, the indictment states.

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