ATF looking into rock star's shooting range visit

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 28, 2011

By Nathan Hardin
SALISBURY — The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is investigating after a rock star with a criminal history joined officers from the Spencer Police Department, Salisbury Police Department and Rowan County Sheriff’s Office at a local shooting range earlier this month.
Sheriff Kevin Auten said he was first notified by Spencer Police Chief Michael James on July 21 of the incident, which involved former Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee and other band members at the Rowan County Peace Officer’s Lodge shooting range.
“I just wanted someone outside of our agency to look at it,” Auten said. “Obviously I wasn’t trying to hide it or I wouldn’t have asked the ATF to investigate it.”
Auten said the Peace Officer’s Lodge is a private organization.
“It’s not alarming for people to go down there and shoot that aren’t members,” Auten said.
It was not clear Wednesday exactly when the event took place. Motley Crue played in Charlotte on July 12.
Auten said he, James and Salisbury Police Chief Rory Collins met after hearing about the incident and agreed to ask the ATF to investigate. There is no timetable on the investigation.
James could not be reached for comment.
Collins said the three met “within an hour” and after doing a preliminary review of the incident, elected to ask the ATF to get involved.
Collins said the Salisbury Police department is proceeding with an internal investigation.
Collins said the investigation is still “very early,” but that he knows the Salisbury Police officers involved were off-duty, despite one of the officers wearing his uniform.
“Because of what it involves, in order to keep the investigation independent,” Collins said, “the decision was made to ask the ATF to investigate.”
Auten said the incident was brought to his attention because of Lee’s criminal history.
Auten said a preliminary search hasn’t confirmed that Lee is a felon, but that out-of-state criminal history is different from North Carolina’s.
“The original complaint was that Tommy Lee is a twice convicted felon,” Auten said. “Out-of-state history is not easy to understand.”
Lee’s record could not be obtained Wednesday from the California Department of Corrections. According to an April 8, 1998, Los Angeles Times article, he pleaded no contest to a felony charge of spousal abuse after kicking then-wife Pamela Anderson while she held their son. He spent four months in prison.
In 2000, he pleaded no contest to inciting a riot at a 1997 Motley Crue concert in Greensboro. In exchange for his plea to an assault charge in the Greensboro case, prosecutors dropped a felony charge. Lee received 18 months probation.
North Carolina’s Felony Firearms Act says it’s illegal for a convicted felon “to purchase, own, possess, or have in his custody, care, or control any firearm.”
Auten said the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office will undergo an internal review of the incident. Any criminal violations, Auten said, will be determined by the ATF.
Photos of Lee’s visit to the firing range were posted on his website,, on July 19.
Contact Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.