IOWA CITY (AP) — A University of Iowa graduate student who was fatally shot after he opened fire on police was granted a handgun permit only after his psychologist assured the sheriff that he posed no safety threat, according to records released Tuesday.
Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek declined to talk about the investigation into Sunday’s shooting in which 28-year-old Taleb Salameh shot and injured three police officers responding to a domestic disturbance at a North Liberty trailer park. He said Salameh died at the scene and that an autopsy will determine the cause of death.
But Pulkrabek spoke openly about the background checks the sheriff’s office made in response to Salameh’s February 2010 application to purchase a firearm, calling it a “great example” of why the university and his office worked together to vet applicants.
Pulkrabek said his office routinely contacts the university if a student or employee wants to buy a gun, and that the information the university provided about Salameh gave him cause for concern.
David Grady, an associate vice president in the dean of students’ office, told Pulkrabek in a March 2010 letter that he had “serious reservations” about Salameh’s intent to purchase a gun. He asked the sheriff to delay consideration of his permit until the following year, after Salameh was scheduled to graduate. Grady noted that Salameh was being treated by a psychologist, had assaulted another student during an out-of-state trip in 2009, and had been convicted of numerous alcohol-related crimes.
Pulkrabek then told Salameh he would need a letter from his psychologist in support of his gun permit application.
Psychologist Gregory Gullickson of Iowa City turned in the letter in June 2010, saying he had been treating Salameh for depression and anxiety for nearly a year following the assault, but that “at no time during his treatment ... (had he) shown any indication that he poses a threat to anyone.”
“Mr. Salameh is not showing any indications of impulse-control or substance abuse problems,” Gullickson wrote. “He has reported feeling in a significantly improved mood for several months now, and I can see no reason that he not be allowed to obtain a permit to own firearms.”
Gullickson, who did not immediately return a phone message, added that Salameh had expressed interest in going hunting with friends.
University officials routinely shared information on academic performance and concerns about behavior with Pulkrabek’s office when students applied for gun permits, even though such information may be protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. University officials contend that the sharing is legal because permit applicants sign a waiver giving the sheriff the power to access confidential records as part of the background check.
The university put the practice — which dates back to a 1991 shooting rampage by a graduate student — on hold while seeking guidance from the U.S. Department of Education on whether it complies with the privacy law.