IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Airport executive dies days after a shootout with federal agents shocked neighbors

Bryan Malinowski had worked at the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, Arkansas, since 2008.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — An airport executive who was shot in the head this week during a shootout with federal agents has died, a spokesperson for the airport said Thursday.

“With a heavy heart, we announce the passing of our executive director Bryan Malinowski,” the spokesperson for the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport said in a statement, adding that Malinowski was a 16-year employee and the airport experienced significant growth and success under his leadership.

“We extend our heartfelt condolences to Bryan’s wife, Maer, loved ones and friends,” the statement said.

Malinowski, 53, was wounded when agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives tried to serve a search warrant at his home just after 6 a.m. Tuesday. The ATF said one of its agents sustained a “non-life-threatening” wound in the shootout. Malinowski was shot more than once, Arkansas State Police have said.

The ATF has not provided details about the warrant. The court case that it involves appears to be sealed, according to online court records. Malinowski's family in a statement suggested it dealt with the sale by Malinowski of a firearm to someone not legally able to buy one.

"Our family has endured an unspeakable tragedy and one that is almost impossible to understand," the Malinowski family said in a statement Thursday. They also said their prayers were going out to the agent who was injured.

Malinowski’s brother, Matthew Malinowski, 55, previously told NBC News that his sibling was shot in the head and was not likely to survive.

Earlier Thursday, residents here said they were still struggling to make sense of the bloodshed, recalling Malinowski as a near-perfect neighbor.

“He’s been nothing but an outstanding neighbor — helpful and very giving,” said Sarah Aguirre, 30.

Aguirre spoke Thursday from her front door on a cul-de-sac on Durance Court in the upper-middle-class neighborhood.

The executive director of the Bill and Hillary Clinton Airport in Little Rock, Arkansas, was shot Tuesday as federal agents arrived at his home to serve a search warrant, police said.

Shirley Wofford, 75, said that Malinowski was known to do handiwork around the neighborhood and that his wife often chatted with people as she walked the couple’s two pugs every day.

The couple would also bake cookies and share them with neighbors, Wofford said.

She fondly recalled Thursday that after her husband died in 2014, Malinowski would come over unexpectedly and change the lightbulbs outside her home.

“We are all hurting badly about what happened,” Wofford said. “We don’t know what in the world happened. We are all dumbfounded.”

She said that the Malinowskis have had her over for Thanksgiving dinner and that neighbors would often gather at their home during the holidays.

Susan Lynn Duston, who lives next door, said the Malinowskis became neighbors 15 years ago and since then their families have shared dinners and one year watched the Super Bowl together. “He’s a good friend," she said Wednesday, describing Malinowski as a “professional.”

A screenshot of law enforcement officials and vehicles outside a home in west Little Rock, Ark.,
Law enforcement officials outside a home in west Little Rock, Ark., on Tuesday.KARK

Wofford, who has known Malinowski for more than a decade, said she had never seen anything at his home to suggest he was involved in anything illegal. She also said she never saw anyone strange there.

“He was not a hardened criminal — nothing that we know about,” she said. “I just don’t think whatever happened to him should have cost him his injuries. It shouldn’t have happened at all.”

The authorities have not said why they were serving a search warrant at the Malinowski home. A spokesperson for the ATF said Wednesday the agency could not release the warrant, saying it is part of an active investigation.

Aguirre said she’s curious to learn why federal authorities were at Malinowski's home. She said she saw law enforcement packing up crates and a garbage bin of guns into a truck Tuesday morning. Wofford said she saw about 15 to 20 ATF personnel in marked windbreakers at the Malinowski home.

Malinowski's family in the statement Thursday questioned why the ATF conducted what they characterized as a dawn raid on his home.

"Even if the allegations in the affidavit are true, they don’t begin to justify what happened," the family said. "At worst, Bryan Malinowski, a gun owner and gun enthusiast, stood accused of making private firearm sales to a person who may not have been legally entitled to purchase the guns."

Aguirre said she’s “tore up” over the shooting.

“He was a good person. Everything that happened, I’m still in shock,” she said. “I don’t know why it went to that level.”

Wofford said she was overcome with sadness.

“I need to get out of this house and off of this street,” she said. “You open your shutters and you look over there and you know something happened to them. He was not a bad person.”