Gun used to fatally shoot Sacramento County deputy was bought illegally in Nevada, prosecutors say
A federal grand jury has indicted a Nevada man as an unlicensed firearms dealer after he allegedly sold guns to out-of-state residents, including one that was used in the fatal shooting of a Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy.
Charles Martin Ellis, 64, was charged Wednesday in a Nevada federal court with one count of engaging in firearms dealing without a license and one count of transfer or sale of a firearm to a nonresident, according to the indictment.
Prosecutors say Ellis sold the Zastava 7.62-millimeter caliber pistol that was used in a dramatic shootout on Aug. 30, 2017, that ended with two California Highway Patrol officers wounded and Deputy Robert French, a 21-year veteran of the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, dead.
According to the Sheriff’s Department, investigators also found two handguns and a live hand grenade in the shooter’s vehicle after he was caught. Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives traced the gun back to a man who purchased it from Ellis in Nevada, prosecutors said.
“The genesis of this investigation started the day Bob French was murdered,” Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said in a statement. “With the gracious help of our federal partners and their relentless pursuit of this investigation, a dangerous felon that provided the instrument that killed Deputy French will now be held to answer. It does little to fill the hole that still exists in his family and in our Department family, but it helps provide both a small measure toward justice and helps reduce the risk of a similar recurrence elsewhere.”
Between January 2016 and February 2018, Ellis bought and quickly sold 250 firearms, including AR-15 and AK-47 assault-style weapons, without a federal firearms license, the indictment says. He allegedly sold the guns to residents of Nevada, Texas, Arizona and California.
Several of the guns were used in crimes in Nevada and California, prosecutors said.
Ellis faces up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines if convicted.
Thomas Littlecloud, 32, the man who killed French, died days later from wounds he suffered in the shootout.
For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna on Twitter.
The stories shaping California
Get up to speed with our Essential California newsletter, sent six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.