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Your guide to the latest news from around the Northwest

January 22, 2014 at 3:44 PM

Head of Seattle ATF hopes to beef up oversight of gun sellers

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Douglas R. Dawson

The new special agent in charge of the Seattle Division of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is hoping to improve the agency’s efforts in helping law enforcement track the history of firearms recovered from crime scenes.

Douglas R. Dawson says he has plans to establish a regional crime-gun center that will provide law enforcement with one-stop shopping when it comes to finding the origins of weapons used in crimes. Part of this, the 52-year-old Dawson says, will be done through educating law enforcement and the public on the importance of not just recovering guns that can be used as evidence in criminal cases, but in tracing those firearms back to the original seller if possible.

Dawson said that information can be used by ATF to spot errant federal firearms dealers.

Dawson, who attended St. Martin’s University in Olympia, has worked in the Seattle division before. He was assistant special agent in charge in Seattle from 2004 to 2009. Most recently, he worked as the assistant special agent in charge of the Denver division.

He’s says he’s thrilled to be back in the Northwest and praised the “heart and dedication” of the agents in the division.

Dawson said among his top priorities is to restore morale at the Seattle division, which has been without an SAC for several months while enduring a “black eye” with the indictment last year of former  Seattle ATF supervisory special agent James Contreras for embezzlement and making false statements in connection with his alleged theft from a confidential-informant payment fund.

The problems came to light after an informant that Contreras was paying — Joshua Alan Jackson,  a violent felon with a long history of violence toward women — was arrested by Seattle police for sexually assaulting and imprisoning a young woman in an apartment that was being paid for by the ATF.

Contreras is awaiting trial on 35 federal felony charges.

Dawson said that, partly as a result of the Contreras incident, the ATF has adopted new rules for informants nationwide that includes oversight by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Dawson has been with the ATF for 26  years and began his career with the agency in the Los Angeles Field Division. He has served in various locations and was a member of the ATF’s National Response Team.

As special agent in charge of the Seattle Field Division, he is responsible for criminal and federal firearms and explosives regulation in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, Hawaii and Guam.

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