File Photo

File photo.

Joseph Giachello, the gunman in the December shooting at the Babcock Village Apartments, denied having received mental health treatment and successfully passed law enforcement background checks.

Richmond Police Chief Elwood M. Johnson Jr. said that Giachello, 66, was not honest in answering questions on his  application to buy a .38-caliber revolver from Hope Valley Bait & Tackle in Wyoming.

Giachello, a resident of the apartment building, got the gun on Dec. 17, two days before he opened fired at the Cross Street complex, killing office manager Julie Cardinal and injuring facility manager Robin Moss and another resident, Donna Thornley, 66. He then returned to his apartment and killed himself.

Johnson said the department processed background checks for separate applications submitted in both November and December, neither of which returned any findings that would have disqualified Giachello from making the purchase.

“The criminal background and NICS check revealed no disqualifying information matching his identity, so the background was approved and returned” to the store, a federally licensed firearms dealer, Johnson said.

According to Richmond police records, Giachello filed an application to buy the firearm on Nov. 11. That was one day before Property Advisory Group & Affordable Housing Strategies Inc., the company that operates Babcock Village,mailed him a letter stating that he faced possible termination of his lease for not complying with its no-smoking rule.

Westerly Police Chief Shawn Lacey said that when Giachello first applied, he had not obtained the requisite Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management pistol/revolver safety certificate, commonly known as a “blue card.” The card, which certifies that the applicant has successfully passed the state’s safety exam, must be presented in order to buy a revolver.

Giachello completed the course online and received his card, which he took back to the Hope Valley business on Dec. 7. The business required him to resubmit the purchase application, and he was approved 10 days later after passing state and federal review.

Johnson said that on both applications, Giachello denied ever being convicted of a felony, having been adjudicated as addicted to a controlled substance or alcohol, or having been confined or treated for a mental illness. The questions are part of the standard application.

“In response to all four of those questions, the applicant replied, ‘No,’” Johnson said.

Rhode Island and Connecticut police records show that Giachello was hospitalized in 2002 and in 2003 following incidents in which officers expressed concerns that he could be suicidal or dangerous.

Rhode Island police and court records show that Giachello had threatened to buy a gun from Walmart and kill his estranged wife and himself in 2002. He was admitted at that time to Butler Hospital in Providence for emergency observation.

In 2003, he was admitted to a hospital in Connecticut after the Stonington police expressed concerns that he may be a danger to himself or others. Westerly officers had also responded earlier that year to a report that Giachello had made suicidal threats while in possession of a firearm.

The incidents did not end in arrests, but he eventually turned over a firearm to a counselor with South Shore Mental Health, who in turn gave it to the police. Giachello never sought to recover the weapon, which remained in evidence at the Charlestown Police Department and was eventually destroyed two years ago, officials confirmed.

While federal law prohibits firearms sales to those “committed to a mental institution,” the definition of “committed” does not include any voluntary commitment, and Lacey said this week that there was nothing in the application that would have served as a red flag. Lacey said the investigation determined that when it comes to the application review and background check, both Richmond police and Hope Valley Bait & Tackle had “done everything by the book.”

The police have also determined that under state laws, there was nothing that would have legally restricted Giachello from being able to obtain the weapon, Lacey said.

“Unfortunately, there was nothing there that would have prevented him from getting the gun,” Lacey said in a phone interview late last week. “It was obtained legally and purchased only after a detailed review, as required by state and federal laws.”

jvallee@thewesterlysun.com

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