Juneau gun dealer returns to witness stand

Kim family attorney Mark Choate makes a point as Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg and Ray Coxe listen on Tuesday. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)
Kim family attorney Mark Choate makes a point as Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg and Ray Coxe listen on Tuesday. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

A former gun dealer took the stand again on Tuesday to refute testimony made by a former employee suggesting that a rifle was illegally sold to a person already prohibited from owning a firearm.

Sean Swift, a former sales clerk at Rayco Sales, testified on Monday that he heard the store owner describe multiple times how Jason Coday left $200 on the counter and walked out with a rifle without going through a background check that he was sure to fail.

But Ray Coxe clarified on Tuesday that it wasn’t something that Coday told him. It was actually his own speculation about the incident after it happened.

“After looking over the years, the thought comes that he knew he would not have passed a background check and I wouldn’t have sold him the gun,” Coxe said.

If it was an illegal sale, Coxe said he wouldn’t have had Coday leave the money on the front counter in full view of surveillance cameras and other people in the store.

Two days after walking out with the rifle, Coday used it to shoot and kill Simone Kim behind Juneau’s Fred Meyer store.

Because of scheduling issues, witnesses are testifying out of order in the civil trial underway in Juneau Superior Court. Coxe retook the witness stand in his own defense on Tuesday even though plaintiffs in the lawsuit have not yet rested their case. Last week, Coxe fielded questions posed by attorneys representing the Kim family in their wrongful death lawsuit against him. They contend that the rifle was purchased by Coday in an “off the books” sale disguised by Coxe as a theft. They also allege that Coxe routinely conducted illegal gun sales for years after Kim’s murder in August 2006.

“When I learned that Simone Kim was killed, I was deeply disturbed,” Coxe said. “I was very concerned for the family. He was an innocent man who was killed for no apparent reason other than this killer couldn’t sleep at night and (they were) making too much noise down there. He came down and shot one of them. My sympathy goes out to the family. I regret that.”

Under questioning by his attorney Tony Sholty, Coxe explained how he resolved some of the missing entries in a firearms acquisition and disposition logbook, how firearm purchasers made errors in a required form, and how he fulfilled trace requests filed by law enforcement agencies seeking to track down the origin of a crime gun.

In some cases, they included missing guns that left his store 20 years earlier, firearms that Coxe acquired for his personal collection, malfunctioning firearms that were stored away and long forgotten, or transfers that were shipped from dealer to dealer that weren’t logged properly.

Portions of the back-up video surveillance system at Rayco Sales. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)
Portions of the back-up video surveillance system at Rayco Sales. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

“Why didn’t you dispute any of the violations?” asked Sholty.

“The violations are correct,” answered Coxe. “We did not do the paperwork properly.”

But Coxe said they weren’t made with bad purpose or evil motive.

A VCR and video monitor from a back-up video surveillance at Rayco Sales was also brought into the courtroom on Tuesday. Coxe explained how he assumed that the system would’ve captured the moment that Coday walked out with the rifle, but he later realized it didn’t record properly.

Coxe lost his federal firearms license in April, about four decades after he started buying and selling firearms out of his garage. He can continue to sell ammunition and other firearms-related merchandise at Rayco Sales.

Also on Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg said he would dismiss a juror who is starting a nursing class this week. The woman expressed concerns about missing even a single day of instruction in the summer-long course and described the instructor’s reluctance to allow her to catch up on classwork later. The juror’s dismissal would leave eight women and five men to hear the rest of the case.

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