A Las Vegas man suspected of selling the rifle that killed Sacramento sheriff’s Deputy Robert French nearly a year ago was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury on charges of selling firearms without a license.
Charles Martin Ellis, 64, was charged with one count of selling firearms without a license and another of transferring a firearm to a non-resident, counts that could net him five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The indictment comes about a week before the one-year anniversary of the Aug. 30, 2017, shootout that killed French and wounded two California Highway Patrol officers at the Ramada Inn on Watt Avenue and Auburn Boulevard.
French, 52, was shot with an AK-47-style rifle round that struck his shoulder and hit his heart. He died exactly 10 years after his parents were killed in an El Dorado County plane crash.
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The 21-year veteran of the department was responding to reports of shots fired at the Arden Arcade motel, where officers were conducting a stolen vehicle sweep. The gunman, Thomas Daniel Littlecloud, a troubled 32-year-old Castro Valley resident, later died of wounds from the shootout with officers.
Court documents filed in federal court in Las Vegas charge that Ellis sold weapons between January 2016 and February 2018 to buyers in Texas, Arizona and California.
The Justice Department said Ellis bought and resold more than 250 weapons during that period, including AR-15 and AK-47-style rifles, and that the probe into his activities began after French was killed. The department also said Ellis sold weapons that were used in other crimes in California and Nevada.
Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones issued a statement after the indictment praising the development.
“The genesis of this investigation started the day Bob French was murdered,” Jones said. “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.”