Bradley Wendt is feeling appreciative that his small Iowa town has his back and is allowing him to return to work as Adair police chief—despite being charged with allegedly lying to federal agents while selling machine guns for a profit.
The Adair City Council last week voted to reinstate Wendt as police chief of the town of about 800 residents and a department of three other officers. The decision, which stipulated that Wendt is no longer allowed to buy new guns for his force without approval, came after several residents voted in support of Wendt in the council meeting.
It also comes after federal prosecutors indicted Wendt on several charges, alleging that he had been exploiting his position to obtain military-level weaponry that he later resold in his private gun stores and a friend’s separate business.
“The community is very supportive and I am grateful they took the time to educate themselves on the process of how obtaining these firearms takes place,” Wendt told The Daily Beast in a Tuesday text message, confirming the reinstatement and the stipulation. “I wish journalists would do the same and realize this is an attack on the 2nd amendment and not just about me.”
Wendt, 46, added that thousands of “police departments have these types of machine guns and it’s perfectly legal.” When asked about his upcoming trial, he said that while he cannot discuss his case, he’s confident it will not start next month as scheduled.
“I’m sure it’ll be continued as we have not [been] able to see discovery yet so there most likely won’t be enough time to go over it before [the] scheduled date but that will be up to my attorney,” he added via text message.
His lawyer, Nick Klinefeldt, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Neither Adair’s mayor nor Adair City Attorney Clint Fichter responded to a request for comment. Fichter, however, confirmed the City Council’s 2-to-1 decision to bring back Wendt to KCCI.
The restoration of Wendt as police chief of the rural enclave about an hour outside Des Moines before the completion of his federal trial would normally be, given the allegations against him.
Prosecutors allege that between July 2018 and August 2022, Wendt supplied “law letters” to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) in which he justified his acquisition
of guns “not lawfully available to the public” by falsely claiming they were for his department. He also detailed in the letters that he wanted the guns so that he could demonstrate them to his officers for potential future purchases.
But prosecutors allege Wendt and a friend either resold the weapons or set up paid demonstrations where patrons would be allowed to shoot the military-style weapons.
The indictment, which was unsealed last month, alleges that, in all, Wendt requested 90 machine guns for such purposes—but that the ATF did not approve all his requests.
“Brad Wendt is charged with exploiting his position as chief of police to unlawfully obtain and sell guns for his own personal profit,” FBI Omaha Special Agent in Charge Eugene Kowel said in a statement.
Klinefeldt previously told The Daily Beast that his client intends to fight the allegations and that he has “faithfully and honorably served the people of Iowa as a law enforcement officer for over 20 years.”
“Mr. Wendt’s purpose here was not to provide a personal benefit to himself or anyone else. He is a trained police officer and firearms instructor, as well as a Federal Firearms Licensee, and only sought to benefit his community,” his lawyer added. “All of the transactions were approved with the full knowledge of the ATF. He looks forward to proving his innocence at trial.”
And it seems like Adair residents agree.
During the Jan. 11 meeting, one resident demanded Wendt’s reinstatement after a “seemingly unfounded FBI investigation into our police chief” that he claimed had caused some city officials to “jump to conclusions of guilt without due process.”
“It is my understanding and belief that the decision to assign our chief to unpaid leave was concluded impulsively by a politician’s overreach and abuse of authority. Not only do I believe it to be unethical, but it reveals a lack of dedication and support to the officers that keep our community safe,” resident Seth Wilson said, according to a video of the meeting.
“I make the suggestion to you to reinstate Brad Wendt as Adair chief of police and let the business of his investigation be decided by the jury.”
Wendt and his friend have been charged with conspiracy to make false statements and defraud the ATF. Wendt is also facing 18 additional counts of making a false statement to the ATF, and one count of illegal possession of a machine gun. If convicted, Wendt faces a maximum sentence of ten years in prison.