Paris weapon did not come through Delray Beach gun wholesaler

The corporate headquarters for Century International Arms in Delray Beach, photographed on Jan. 19, 2007. (Chris Matula/The Palm Beach Post) 01/19/07 NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION OUTSIDE COX PAPERS. OUT PALM BEACH, BROWARD, MARTIN, ST. LUCIE, INDIAN RIVER AND OKEECHOBEE COUNTIES IN FLORIDA. OUT ORLANDO. NO SALES. TV OUT. TABLOIDS OUT. MAGAZINES OUT. WIDE WORLD OUT. INTERNET USE OUT. NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION OUTSIDE COX
The corporate headquarters for Century International Arms in Delray Beach, photographed on Jan. 19, 2007. (Chris Matula/The Palm Beach Post)

The Justice Department says terrorists in the Paris attack that killed 130 did not use a firearm previously sold by a Delray Beach gun wholesaler, disputing an Associated Press story released Dec. 9. In fact, the gun is not even in Europe; it’s in Mexico.

Federal authorities say the M92 semi-automatic pistol in question traces back to a crime scene in the Latin American country and is now in the custody of the Mexican government.  The story first broke on VPR, Vermont’s National Public Radio station, late Thursday. Century Arms has a manufacturing and distribution center in the “Freedom and Unity” state.

The result for Century Arms is a vindication of sorts since the company said Dec. 11 that it couldn’t confirm reports that the gun ended up in Paris. But it underscores that guns passing through Century Arms end up south of the border where they are often the weapon of choice for drug cartels.

The Justice Department release contradicts an Associated Press story citing Milojko Brzakovic, a Serbian arms factory chief, as saying a semi-automatic pistol found in the carnage of the Paris attacks carried a serial number matching one of the guns the Zastava arms factory delivered in May 2013 to Century Arms.

“After further investigation of the firearm mention(ed) in the Associated Press story, it is clear the firearm reported in previous stories is not related to the Paris attacks,” U.S. Department of Justice spokeswoman Danette Seward wrote in an email to Century Arms lawyer Brady Toensing obtained by The Palm Beach Post.

Toensing released a statement to VPR blaming the AP for the story.

“At a minimum, the AP should have waited for a response from the United States government. And it should have performed an elementary-level review of the United States import laws, which require that all firearms imported into the United States have specific markings on them,” the lawyer said. “Performing proper due diligence and verifying whether the firearm had the required United States import markings should have been, but was not, done before reporting this story.”

The AP issued a correction on Friday:

“Serbian authorities declined to provide any additional details this week on the advisory cited by Zastava or what it was based on. Interpol said it could not provide additional material because it only acts as a clearinghouse for information among police agencies.”

Paris attack alarms West Palm Beach traveller

Linda Tate and her friend Catherine Hetzel were enjoying their first dinner in Paris on Friday night when they began getting odd messages on their Facebook pages.

West Palm Beach financial adviser Linda Tate, (right) and friend Catherine Hetzel on, Friday night, their first day in Paris.
West Palm Beach financial adviser Linda Tate, (right) and friend Catherine Hetzel on, Friday night, their first night in Paris.

“I hope you guys are okay” friends were asking. Tate, 28, of West Palm Beach, and Hetzel, 29, of Metuchen, New Jersey, checked Twitter and learned of the terrorist attacks by ISIS.

“Every time you’d refresh you’d hear of another attack,” Tate said. Other diners checked their phones but continued eating. Tate, Hetzel and other friends who had joined them for dinner asked if they could eat in a dining room in the basement near the kitchen.

“Each of us was getting a little more panicked,” Tate said. Still, the other diners kept eating and so they did, too. “It was definitely very calm.”

But the attacks became more real when they left the restaurant and began walking back to the studio where they were staying, which is closer to one of the sites the terrorists attacked.

“We weren’t feeling to well about going back,” Tate said. Instead, they stopped at a hotel that had its own security. They tried to get a room but they were full. As they walked back to their studio, police with assault rifles patrolled the streets.

Tate and Hetzel had arrived in Paris on Friday morning. The quick vacation was a girls’ trip to celebrate Hetzel’s upcoming wedding in February. The plan was to meet up with other friends, shop and hop a tourist bus to see the city’s sites. Instead, they contacted the U.S. Embassy and reported they were safe.

“We were going to do some wedding shopping and get some awesome stuff,” said Tate. “Maybe by Monday things will calm down a little.”

The women are still considering what to do for the remaining three days of their stay in Paris, said Tate, a financial advisor at Morgan Stanley in West Palm Beach. They considered leaving and visiting a friend in Amsterdam but then learned the airport is closed.

They intend to avoid crowded, confined sites, like the Metro, Paris’ subway. Walking seems to be the safest option, Tate said.

“We’re going to find out if you have to be on lock-down of you can venture,” Tate said. “You almost feel weird having a good time because they killed a bunch of people.”