The Oregon State Police has closed its case on an clergy member accused of illegally transferring a rifle he spent $3,000 of his church’s discretionary fund winning in a raffle with an aim to destroy it.
As previously reported by Guns.com, Rev. Jeremy Lucas of Christ Church Episcopal Parish in Lake Oswego went all-in on the raffle in July by throwing $3,000 in the plate for a girls’ softball team, coming away with the lucky ticket to a new AR-15.
However, he soon ran into trouble with the state’s new and confusing expanded background check law by reportedly asking a parishioner to store the gun while he arranged its transformation into an art object without first going through a mandated check.
Citing smoke but no fire, the OSP marked the case closed on Sept. 9, pending the development of new leads or information after the Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office declined to pursue criminal charges.
“The investigation was challenging due to the lack of any evidence supporting the allegations,” said OPS in a statement. “Further the fact that OSP did not secure a voluntary statement from Lucas and no persons came forward with the name of who the firearm was transferred to made it difficult to prove or disprove this crime had occurred.”
A 6-page OSP report regarding a possible private party transfer of a firearm without doing a background check cited media reports and a text message from Lucas directing the investigator to contact his attorney, who simply advised state police that the pastor did not want to give a statement. Attempts to talk to Lucas at the church failed.
Though noting Lucas took possession of the gun, “What happened to the AR15 after that is factually unknown,” despite media reports that the clergyman boasted of transferring the rifle to a parishioner to hold until it could be recycled.
“Based on the totality of the circumstances in this investigation and without further evidence to support an AR15 was actually transferred to another party by Lucas, probable cause does not exist at this time to prove the firearm was transferred by an unlicensed person (private party) to another,” the case file states as conclusion.
Placed in the hands of Clackamas County DA John Foote, the prosecutor declined to pursue the matter, citing insufficient evidence.
“None of the witnesses nor documentary evidence obtained by Oregon State Police prove that an actual ‘transfer’ occurred,” said Foote in a letter. “The suspect’s statement to the media that he gave it to someone for safe keeping is insufficient to prove that it did happen.”
Kevin Starrett, director of the Oregon Firearms Federation, who spoke to Guns.com previously on the case, was not surprised at the outcome of the investigation.
“We have no doubts that the Oregon State Police, who undertook this grueling and dangerous investigation at great personal risk, will be applying the same standards to every young black man in north Portland who is suspected of a crime and simply refuses to answer the door,” said Starrett in an email Thursday.