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Aug 18, 2023

By: The Associated Press

Updated: 16 hours ago / Posted Aug 4, 2023

The gunman who last month killed a Fargo police officer and wounded two others and a civilian admitted to owning nearly a dozen guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition in a 2022 police interview following a kitchen fire at his home.

Firefighters notified police after seeing guns, ammunition and propane tanks in Mohamad Barakat's apartment, according to a report provided to The Associated Press Wednesday by the City of Fargo Fire Department.

Battalion Chief Jason Ness noted what appeared to be “a significant amount of gun ammunition,” “multiple ‘assault style’ rifles,” a 20-pound propane cylinder in a bedroom, a second smaller propane cylinder in the kitchen, and “a funnel, blender, and other items that looked to be for measuring purposes” in his report on the Sept. 6, 2022 fire.

“FPD determined everything was legal with the gun collection," Ness wrote. "The individual admitted to owning approximately 10 guns and 6,000 rounds of ammunition. My decision to refer the issue to PD was based on the presence of the guns, several high capacity magazines, and the presence of propane tanks with no means of using the tanks for cooking or grilling.”

Fargo city spokesperson Katie Ettish told the AP that police officers observed several guns in Barakat's apartment during the fire call, but none were illegal. Barakat also was not prohibited from acquiring or possessing guns, she said.

Fargo Police Chief David Zibolski previously said that he believed police had prior contact with Barakat “but not anything significant.”

Barakat, 37, shot and killed Fargo Police Officer Jake Wallin and wounded officers Andrew Dotas and Tyler Hawes as they responded to a routine traffic crash on July 14. He also wounded a bystander as she tried to flee. A fourth officer, Zach Robinson, shot and killed Barakat, preventing what authorities said could have been a much bigger attack with summer festivities occurring in the area at the time.

After the shooting, investigators discovered numerous weapons in Barakat’s car, including guns, a homemade grenade, more than 1,800 rounds of ammunition, three containers full of gasoline and two propane tanks — one completely filled and the other half-filled with homemade explosive materials, North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley said.

Authorities also said Barakat's internet queries over the past five years included “kill fast,” “explosive ammo,” “incendiary rounds,” “mass shooting events,” and one for “area events where there are crowds,” which brought up a news article with the headline, ”Thousands enjoy first day of Downtown Fargo Street Fair,” a day before the shooting.

The 2022 fire was at least the second time authorities interviewed Barakat about his guns. The FBI and Fargo Police Department said last week that the FBI received an anonymous tip about Barakat in July 2021 in which concerns were expressed about his mental state, that he had access to a “ significant number of firearms ” and that he had used threatening language.

Fargo police detectives visited Barakat, who “denied any ill-intentions,” according to the statement.

The FBI and FPD said that because there was no evidence of ongoing illegal activities or indications of an immediate threat, no further action was taken at the time. The FBI's investigation into last month's shooting is ongoing.

Wrigley has said it appears Barakat legally purchased his guns. Barakat was a Syrian national who came to the U.S. on an asylum request in 2012 and became a U.S. citizen in 2019, Wrigley has said.