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Restricted Utahn with violent history purchased guns due to mistake, police say

By Pat Reavy, KSL | Posted - Apr. 24, 2019 at 4:09 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — A man who police say "has a history of violence and mental health issues" was able to recently purchase two firearms in Utah due to a possible data entry error, police say.

Once the store that sold him the guns realized its mistake, employees contacted the State Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the man was arrested.

Richard Gonzalez, 33, of Tremonton, was booked into the Box Elder County Jail on Tuesday for investigation of three counts of being a restricted person in possession of a weapon, two counts of illegal transaction of a firearm, and two counts of being a restricted person purchasing a firearm.

Gonzalez went to Ace Hardware in Tremonton, 250 E. Main, on Feb, 2, "and gave misleading information to the firearms dealer by falsifying ATF Form 4473 in two places," according to a jail report, "Furthermore, due to the arrangement to purchase the firearms and the falsification (of the form), Gonzalez successfully purchased two firearms."

State Bureau of Investigation Capt. Jared Garcia said there was also a possible "data entry issue" that allowed for the purchase of a handgun and a rifle. That issue was still being investigated Wednesday, but Garcia said there was no evidence that the store intentionally sold weapons to a restricted person.

The arresting officer noted in the report that Gonzalez "is a convicted felon for violent felonies. Gonzalez has also been committed to the Utah State Hospital."

Gonzalez was charged with attempted murder in 2004 and other crimes. He is listed in court documents for that case as Richard Gonzales, but Garcia said the difference in spelling did not account for the weapons being sold to him. Gonzalez eventually pleaded guilty and mentally ill in the 2004 case to aggravated assault and was ordered to receive treatment at the Utah State Hospital, according to court documents.

On Feb. 21, Gonzalez returned to Ace Hardware and arranged to buy a third firearm, the report states.

"Once again, Gonzalez gave misleading information to the firearms dealer by falsifying the ATF Form 4473 in two places on the form," according to the report.

But this time, the background check conducted on Gonzalez accurately brought up his criminal past and the firearm sale was denied, the report states.

Gonzalez also brought one of the handguns he had originally purchased back to the store to have some work done on it, Garcia said. Employees held onto the gun and contacted authorities.

On Tuesday, a search warrant was served on Gonzalez's Tremonton home where a rifle, ammunition and an ACE Hardware receipt were recovered, the report states.

Each year, the state investigates between 1,800 and 2,000 cases of restricted people trying to purchase firearms, Garcia said. Starting in July, thanks to recently approved funding from the governor, he said the State Bureau of Investigation will add two agents whose full-time jobs will be to investigate such cases.

The goal, he said, is to jump on those types of investigations early and make arrests to mitigate potential tragedies before criminals try to obtain weapons by other means, he said.

Investigators did not know Wednesday why Gonzalez wanted to purchase the weapons that he did.

Pat Reavy

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