GARDEN CITY -- Five months before a gunman murdered four people during a pharmacy holdup for prescription painkillers, a police detective expressed concerns about the suspect being issued a pistol permit, but it appears no action was taken, according to a report published Friday.
However, the defendant said in a jailhouse interview that even if police had confiscated his handgun license and .45-caliber pistol, he likely would have acquired a weapon to commit the killings.
"If someone's dedicated enough, they can get a gun," David Laffer told Newsday. He also noted that he could have purchased a rifle or a shotgun, which do not require a license.
Laffer pleaded guilty earlier this month to first-degree murder in the June killings of two employees and two customers at Haven Drugs in Medford, admitting he robbed the pharmacy of prescription painkillers. He is expected to receive consecutive life-without-parole sentences next month.
His wife, who drove the getaway car, faces up to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to robbery charges.
In January, Suffolk County Detective Kenneth Ripp expressed concerns that Laffer had been issued a pistol permit, according to documents obtained by Newsday through a Freedom of Information request with the district attorney's office.
Ripp contacted the police department's Pistol License Bureau after interviewing Laffer regarding the theft of $8,220 from a bank account belonging to Laffer's mother. The woman declined to press charges after she learned her son was the culprit, and no arrest was made.
Ripp said in his report that he was told by an officer in the permit bureau that Laffer should be allowed to retain the permits, but there would be a follow-up investigation. It is not clear what, if any, follow-up took place.
Ripp was not available for questions Friday, but his attorney said the veteran officer had concerns about Laffer.
"His instincts were that something was going on," attorney Jeffrey Goldberg told the Associated Press. "If the bureau was conscientious, they would have found a reason to confiscate the guns."
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said Friday night that the department's pistol license bureau acted properly when notified by the detective about Laffer.
Dormer said there was no legal basis to revoke the pistol permit, noting Laffer had no previous criminal record and had never been accused of using drugs.
Laffer claimed in the jailhouse interview with Newsday that the first shot was an accident as he pulled the weapon from his backpack. District Attorney Thomas Spota called Laffer "an outrageous liar" and said video surveillance shows him deliberately firing the first shot at the pharmacist through his backpack.