ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- A Saudi Arabian student arrested on a federal firearms charge the day before he was scheduled to graduate from the University of New Mexico remained in custody Monday while his attorneys sought more documents from prosecutors. The attorneys hope to discredit allegations that their client was in possession of gun and had created a list of people he wanted to kill.
The investigation started with a tip to the FBI's National Threat Operations Center that Hassan Alqahtani had what was described as a “kill list” that included a university professor, a former roommate and a person he had scuffled with. That was the person who filed a complaint with authorities in August.
Alqahtani was shackled and wearing a jumpsuit as he listened to the testimony of the lead investigator during a hearing Monday in U.S. District Court.
Special Agent Jonathan Labuhn acknowledged that the tipster never saw a written list of alleged targets. “It was more of a mental list Alqahtani kept of people who had slighted him,” Labuhn told prosecutors
Alqahtani, a 27-year-old engineering student, is charged with illegal possession of a firearm as a student visa holder. Authorities found a gun at his Albuquerque home after serving a search warrant. His parents, wife and other relatives were at the home at the time, all in town for Alqahtani's graduation on Saturday.
Instead, he was arrested Friday and spent the weekend in custody. Hearings will resume Tuesday afternoon, and it will be up to a U.S. magistrate judge to determine whether he should be released pending trial.
The proceedings were delayed until Tuesday after Alqahtani's attorneys requested a copy of the search warrant. Prosecutors said they would have to redact some information in the document before handing it over, prompting the judge to give them time to do that and for the defense to review the material.
Defense attorneys said they would likely request more documents as the case proceeds.
According to a criminal complaint, a confidential source told investigators that Alqahtani approached him in November expressing interest in purchasing a rifle and that Alqahtani later said he was interested instead in acquiring a smaller gun for protection. The court documents also alleged that Alqahtani knew he wasn't allowed to have a gun given his status as a student visa holder and that he said his girlfriend would claim ownership of the weapon if it was ever found.
Joel Meyers, one of Alqahtani's attorneys, disputed accusations that the firearm seized from Alqahtani's home belonged to his client. Meyers has said Alqahtani lives with his wife — described as his girlfriend in the criminal complaint. She is not prohibited from possessing a firearm.
Federal prosecutors alleged that the woman initially told investigators there were no weapons in the home but later claimed ownership of the gun.
During testimony on Monday, Labuhn suggested the woman was afraid of Alqahtani and that she had a black eye and bruising on her side when she was interviewed by authorities. She said the injuries were from a bike accident, but Labuhn said the bicycle she claimed to have been using had flat tires and was covered with cobwebs.
Alqahtani's wife and her attorney were among those in the courtroom Monday.