CARSON CITY — Eduardo Sencion, the man who killed four people in a capital city IHOP restaurant in September 2011 before killing himself, passed a background check and legally purchased firearms, a state senator said Thursday.
In researching his Senate Bill 221 to block mentally ill people from getting guns — a bill introduced Thursday — Sen. Justin Jones, D-Las Vegas, said he reviewed Sencion’s police file in detail.
Sencion used assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons that had been converted to automatic weapons in what has been called the largest mass murder in Nevada history.
The Carson City Sheriff’s Department initially reported that Sencion had a history of mental illness in California but never indicated where he had acquired the firearms. It was erroneously suggested at the time that he might have taken weapons that belonged to family members.
Jones said if his bill had been law at the time, then Sencion might have been blocked from buying weapons. He did not explain to reporters how that could happen because it still is not known whether the shooter was involuntarily committed to a mental institution in California.
No charges have been filed against anyone in the shootings, in which three Nevada National Guard members and a California woman were killed and seven others were wounded.
Sheriff Kenny Furlong said Sencion had no reported mental health problems when he filed out a permit to buy the weapons. The weapons were purchased in stores in Carson City and “in the area,” the sheriff said.
The sheriff said he will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 15 to discuss the case.
Sencion, 32, was born in Mexico but had lived in the United States for most of his life. His family owned several Mexican food stores. He had no criminal record.
Jones said the Sheriff’s Department “never was able to determine” if Sencion had been involuntarily committed to mental health facilities in California so no steps could have been taken to deny him guns.
“They were refused the mental health records when they sought them,” Jones said.
“But I am not sure that is relevant,” Furlong said. “ (Sencion) was under treatment and supposed to be taking medication, but he wasn’t taking his medication.”
Furlong added that people with mental health problems are “not being adjudicated” if they are suspects in crimes, but instead diverted to other programs, so the criminal history repositories might not become aware of them.
“Nothing can stop someone determined to get a gun illegally,” he said. “You can look in the Nevada Appeal (the Carson City newspaper) and buy a gun through an advertisement when Joe, the gun shop owner, has to jump through hoops to sell guns to his customers.”
Jones brought up Sencion when asked by reporters whether his new bill really would stop mentally ill people from acquiring guns.
He replied that Sencion, “who killed a lot of people down the street,” is one man who might not have acquired guns if his bill had been in place.
Because of background checks in recent years, Jones said 1,000 people have been denied the right to purchase guns by the Nevada central repository for criminal history records.
SB221 would require judges within five days after deciding a mental health case to inform the criminal history repository that the person had been involuntarily committed and might present a danger if he or she acquired weapons.