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FBI blocked St. Louis shooter from obtaining gun, police say

Orlando Harris used an AR-style rifle to kill two people and wound seven in an attack on his old high school in St. Louis on Monday. (St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department/AP) (AP)

Weeks before Orlando Harris opened fire inside his old St. Louis high school Monday, killing two people and wounding seven, an FBI background check stopped him from buying a gun, police said.

On Oct. 8, the 19-year-old Harris tried to buy a weapon from a licensed dealer in St. Charles, Mo., but an FBI background check “successfully blocked this sale,” St. Louis police said Friday in a news release shared with The Washington Post.

Police did not say why the FBI had flagged Harris. The FBI did not immediately respond to a message from The Post.

After being refused by the licensed dealer, Harris bought the AR-style rifle he used during the rampage at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School from a private dealer who had legally purchased the weapon in 2020, police said. Police did not identify the person. Harris died Monday in a gunfight with police.

“There is no existing law which would have prevented the private sale between the original purchaser and the suspect in this case,” police said.

St. Louis shooter had rifle taken away days before rampage, police say

The new information tracing the gun’s path comes days after police shared that Harris’s mother called 911 on Oct. 15 to say that he had a gun at his house and that she wanted removed. When police arrived at Harris’s home around 5 p.m. that day, they took the rifle from Harris and gave it to an adult who did not live in Harris’s home and was legally allowed to carry, police said.

Police did not identify the adult or answer specific questions about that person’s relationship to Harris. Investigators are still trying to determine how Harris was able to get the weapon he used when he broke into his alma mater on Monday carrying 600 rounds of ammunition.

Officers did not seize the rifle when they arrived at Harris’s home after his mother’s call because Missouri does not have a red-flag law, meaning officers did not have “clear authority” to confiscate the rifle that day, police told The Post in a statement Friday. A red-flag law authorizes officials to seize a weapon if a person is considered to be a threat to self or others.

Harris struggled with his mental health and spent time in and out of mental health programs, his family told police. His family often monitored his interactions with others, went through his mail and checked his room, interim St. Louis police commissioner Michael Sack said at a news conference Wednesday.

“They made every effort that they felt that they reasonably could,” Sack said at the news conference. “I think that’s why the mother is so heartbroken over the families that paid for his episode.”

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