Arkansas FFL Sued For Straw Purchase that Resulted in Double Murder

An Arkansas grocery store chain is now facing a negligence lawsuit following a straw purchase that resulted in the murder of an elderly couple.

The lawsuit, filed last Friday by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence on behalf of the estate of the two deceased victims, Donald Rice, 75, and Ladonna Rice, 71, claims that the Harps Food Store in Mountain Home, Arkansas “knew or should have known” that the customer exchanging cash for the pistol wasn’t the actual buyer.

The actual purchaser of the 9mm pistol was later identified as Nicholas Ian Roos.  Less than 24 hours after obtaining the handgun, Roos shot and killed the Rices in their home in Midway, Arkansas.

Harps store in Mountain Home, Arkansas where the straw purchase occurred. (Photo credit Harpsfood.com)

According to the lawsuit, Roos went to Harps Store No. 135 with Talmadge Beigh Pendergrass on Nov. 6, 2015. Roos informed Pendergrass that he could not legally purchase a handgun because he had been confined to a mental institution earlier that year. Roos then asked Pendergrass to purchase the pistol for him. Surveillance footage filmed by Harps shows Roos picking out the gun and then handing Pendergrass cash in the store to make the purchase.

“Harps knew or should have known, paying for a gun with someone else’s money is a strong indicator of a straw purchase, and that the transfer is a straw purchase,” states the lawsuit. “Although Harps knew and had reason to know that there were multiple strong indicators of a straw sale, the Harps clerk ran the background check on Pendergrass rather than Roos.”

SEE ALSO: GAO Report: Feds Prosecute 0.01% of ‘Lie and Try’ Attempted Gun Purchases

Brady Center Vice President Jonathan Lowy, who is also acting as co-counsel on the case, said, “While most gun dealers care deeply about their responsibility to keep guns out of the wrong hands, unfortunately some gun dealers put profits over people, and endanger us all. When a gun dealer chooses to engage in irresponsible sales practices that arm dangerous people, they should be held responsible.”

The clerk that ran the background check and sold the firearm was 17 at the time of the transaction.  There are questions about whether it is lawful for someone that age to work as a clerk at an FFL. It appears that it’s lawful provided it doesn’t violate state law and the 17-year-old has written permission from a parent or guardian.

Federal law states, “an individual less than 21 years of age may sell handguns and ammunition suitable for use in handguns. However, a person less than 18 years of age must have the prior written consent of a parent or guardian and the written consent must be in the person’s possession at all times. Also, the parent of guardian giving the written consent may not be prohibited by law from possessing a firearm. Moreover, State law must not prohibit a person less than 18 years of age from possessing the handguns or ammunition.”

Roos pleaded guilty to capital murder on May 24, 2016, and was sentenced to life in prison.

Pendergrass was convicted this past November for making a false statement in the acquisition of a firearm, a felony offense. He was sentenced to 16 months in federal prison.

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{ 16 comments… add one }
  • chris krupp October 9, 2018, 7:05 am

    Jim, You make some good points. However, The two individuals who circumvented the law are the only ones to bear responsibility. All too often the blame is shifted for financial gain only, as is the case here.
    My problem is that with all the laws in place at the present time, How is a 17 year old able to perform a 4473 at all ? You cannot sell alcohol in the state I reside, unless you are 21, But a 17 year old can sell and transfer a firearm ???
    Anyone needs to take the blame ? How about the BATF for allowing this to occur.
    Much more info is needed to accurately assess this situation, And to lay blame, But holding the retailer responsible for the actions of others, Is just another attempt to shift blame for financial gain.

  • MJ October 8, 2018, 12:11 pm

    Sure, a straw purchase contributed to this crime. But it’s still illegal to kill someone. Why stop at the store? How about the manufacturers, ammunition suppliers, transportation? Because this is where we are heading, that anyone who helps in or kills innocent people will be criminally responsible. There are no laws that will cover every situation without infringing on our 2ND Amendment rights. But the current laws on the books did nothing to prevent this tragedy.

    • Bill January 22, 2021, 7:38 pm

      Well I’m taking your a sue happy type person as it sounds. Why not sue everyone 🤣 for whatever, gonna tell me a drunk driver kills someone and the car manufacturer, alcohol company, tire manufacturer and the list can keep going on caused that person to drink and drive. You need to wake up from you BS ideals and come back down to earth

  • Jim Cargill October 5, 2018, 1:38 pm

    Earl, Chris…

    Come one guys…did you carefully read the article? Based solely on the information given, which is what any of should be doing in our reply, this was such an f’d up sale that it would be funny, if not deadly. It appears Harp’s will train someone how to do a background check, but does not train them on the laws involving a firearm sale. As that APPEARS to be the case, Harp’s has liability for allowing a straw purchase. Legally, that is the end of their responsibility, and mistakes. Civilly, however, they may be sued for damages. In law, there is a “but for” citing, which applies in this case thusly: But for Harps violating the law by allowing an obvious straw purchase, the suspected killer would not have had that weapon, and the victims would likely still be alive”. The preceding appears to be fact, and will result in Harp’s being held civilly liable, if the jury is impartial, and IF the article we are responding to is accurate.

    We have laws specifying who can, and who cannot, purchase a firearm. Unless we want more laws, and stricter laws, we all should be pissed at Harps for allowing this deadly mistake. Again, EVERYTHING I HAVE WRITTEN IS BASED ONLY UPON WHAT WE KNOW FROM THE ARTICLE! Unreported circumstances might change everything, but since we are not aware of anything else….

    • Michael M October 7, 2018, 11:14 am

      Convicted killer not suspected killer.

  • RGE October 5, 2018, 11:02 am

    I’m unclear as to the actual facts so without seeing testimony, and the video footage, I don’t want to speculate. But video surveillance may have caught the straw purchase, it does not mean the employee knew of a straw purchase. Unless this were a gun shop where there’s always someone up front, Roos could have picked out the gun to his friend without anyone actually seeing that, and then handed the money over without anyone actually seeing that. The employee could have come along after those two events happened and been none the wiser, and security at the store may not have been aware of it either. The long and short of it is, surveillance alone won’t make the case.

    Now if the facts are different and store employees noticed Roos picking the gun and handing over cash, yeah that’s not good.

  • Awesome Bill from Dawsonville October 5, 2018, 10:47 am

    FFL’s are in the business of selling guns. They’re also faced with the moral dilemma of who they can sell to. The guy with the saggy pants, wife beater and gold teef might be a gang banger or he could be a guy with different cultural values who’s a law abiding citizen with a good job. Do you sell the guy a Glock or not? Could you be called out as a profiling racist if you don’t? Probably. Could you be screwed if they guy’s nephew “borrows” the gun and robs a pawn shop? Definitely. When the courts hold Walgreen’s accountable for somebody OD’ing on prescription meds or over the counter cough syrup then I’ll pile on the grocery store for their negligence too. Until then, I hold the two idiots involved in the purchase accountable for the murders.

  • Jim D October 5, 2018, 9:01 am

    I work for an FFL. I can’t begin to tell you how many times we’ve cancelled a sale because we see money changing hands, or one person doing all the looking and handling and the other sits down to fill out the paperwork. My boss has always been an absolute stickler for making sure the sale is 100 percent legit. The sad thing is we see dealers let all kinds of sales go through because the money is more important to them. All dealers have to realize we’re not selling apples out of a barrel here. These are firearms, and as much as we enjoy them and reject any kind of restrictions on them, we have to do the responsible thing and make sure every sale is on the up and up. We’ve cancelled sales just because the buyer said something that didn’t ring true. We can’t afford to take chances. Peoples’ lives and our liberties are at stake.

    As far as the clerk being 17 years old, I won’t blame him. He either needed better training or better supervising. It’s the FFL holder’s fault.

  • Earl October 5, 2018, 8:58 am

    So now a store that sells firearms must have an employee watching all the surveillance footage to inform a sales clerk if someone hands another money? The lawsuit is bullshit you can’t expect a store to do that.

  • Joe October 5, 2018, 6:08 am

    The store deserves any punitive damages incurred and I hope they go belly up for giving the anti gun communists this ammo to use in their march to destroy our second amendment.

    • David Smith October 5, 2018, 7:13 am

      It’s a large chain here in Arkansas, I don’t think it will be shut down.

    • Jim Cargill October 5, 2018, 1:49 pm

      Joe, you are absolutely correct. People on this board DO NOT WANT MORE LAWS, but when someone fails to follow a current law, MORE LAWS WILL HAPPEN. I can just hear the anti’s now: “We propose a law that requires a Law Enforcement Person to be present at the counter during any firearm sale”. Don’t doubt for one minute that someone is not considering that.

      If you do not support the enforcement of laws currently on the books, the only outcome will more laws. This is a documented fact, and the reason why there were over 4,000 new laws (state/federal only) passed in the U.S. in 2012, last year figures available. If the laws on the books are not enforced, there will be more laws…is that what we want?????

  • chris krupp October 5, 2018, 4:48 am

    Yet again they go for the money. They have the actual straw purchaser. End of story. He doesn’t have any money, I’m sure, So let’s go after the store.
    Typical libtard horse shit. This opens the door for more pass the buck bullshit………………….

  • Paul October 5, 2018, 2:42 am

    So when do we get to see justice done in the Fast & Furious gunwalking scandal? That also resulted in loss of life, but because it was a demoncrat that was responsible nobody seems to care.

  • Justin October 4, 2018, 1:01 pm

    Good. They shouldnt have an idiot 17 yr old working firearms and making gun owners look bad

  • Dr Motown October 4, 2018, 11:04 am

    Not wise, IMHO, to have a 17yo running handgun sales….

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