Saudi Student in New Mexico Arrested for Gun Possession Had a ‘Hit List’

December 17, 2019 Updated: December 17, 2019
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A Saudi Arabian student was charged on Friday, Dec. 13, for illegal possession of a handgun. He was to graduate from the University of New Mexico the next day. His parents were to be in attendance, having flown in from Saudi Arabia.

Engineering student Hassan Alquahtan, 28, was charged with illegal possession of a firearm as a student visa holder. Authorities found a .380-caliber Cobra handgun at his Albuquerque home after serving a search warrant a day before his graduation. He also had a hit list of people he wanted to kill, according to AlbuquerqueJournal.

The FBI’s National Threat Operations Center had reportedly been tipped off that Alqahtani had obtained a gun illegally and had compiled a “kill list” of people who he wants to kill before leaving the United States.

The student’s hit list reportedly contained the name of a professor at the University of New Mexico. Included on the alleged list was the person who filed the complaint with authorities in August. He was a former roommate of Alqahtani.

Rejecting his request for bail, Magistrate Judge Karen Molzen said: “I didn’t fall off a turnip truck yesterday. I know you could have more than one location to have a firearm,” according to Washington Examiner.

Alquahtan remained in custody over the weekend, and hearings are scheduled to resume on the afternoon of Dec. 17. It will be up to a United States magistrate judge to determine whether Alquahtan should be released pending trial.

Proceedings were delayed until Tuesday because 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. The judge allowed them time for that and for the defense to review the material.

Defense attorneys said they would likely request more documents as the case proceeds.

A confidential source said he was approached by the student in November, as he was interested in purchasing an AK-47 rifle. He later showed interest in obtaining a smaller gun for protection, according to the criminal complaint. The affidavit says Sierra Shafer, Alqahtani’s girlfriend claimed ownership of the seized gun. She is possibly conspiring to conceal his possession of the firearm.

Assistant U.S. Attorney George Kraehe put forward that Alqahtani should remain in custody over the weekend considering the list included UNM professors.

“If anything were to happen tomorrow as he’s graduating, that would be pretty tragic,” Kraehe said during the hearing according to the AlbuquerqueJournal.

Joel Meyers, Alqahtani’s defense attorney, maintained that the seized firearm did not belong to his client. He added that Alqahtani lives with his wife, who is described in the complaint as his girlfriend.

The woman told at first told investigators that there were no weapons in the home but later claimed ownership of the gun, federal prosecutors alleged.

Labuhn on Monday suggested that Alqahtani’s wife was afraid of him, adding that she had a black eye and bruising on her side when authorities interviewed her. The woman said she was injured in a bike accident. However, Labuhn said the bicycle she claimed to have been using had flat tires and was covered with cobwebs.

Magistrate Judge Karen Molzen rejected Alqahtani’s request for bail on Friday, saying: “I didn’t fall off a turnip truck yesterday. I know you could have more than one location to have a firearm.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.