CONWAY, Ark. – A Muslim convert accused of fatally shooting an Army private and wounding another had previously been arrested on a weapons charge in Tennessee, but that charge eventually was dropped.
Police say Abdulhakim Muhammad, then known as Carlos Bledsoe, was arrested in February 2004 after a traffic stop in Nashville.
He was found with an SKS rifle inside in the car, with five rounds in a clip and one round in the rifle's chamber. Officers also found a sawed-off shotgun and another shotgun inside the car, as well as an ounce of marijuana, a switchblade knife and two shotgun shells on Muhammad.
Muhammad is accused of killing Army Pvt. William Andrew Long and wounding Pvt. Quinton I. Ezeagwula in a shooting Monday at a Little Rock recruiting center. After the attack, police confiscated from Muhammad's truck an SKS rifle believed to be used in the shootings.
President Barack Obama said in a statement Thursday that he was "deeply saddened" by the shootings and that the two soldiers were working to "strengthen our armed forces and keep our country safe."
Muhammad has pleaded not guilty to a capital murder charge, which could carry the death penalty if he is convicted. Federal agents are also considering charges.
In the 2004 arrest, Knoxville police spokesman Darrell DeBusk said Thursday, Muhammad told officers he planned to sell the two shotguns for $100 apiece to another man who ran from the car during the traffic stop. The other man, later identified, faced no charges in the incident, DeBusk said.
Muhammad faced weapons and drug charges after the arrest, though court records show prosecutors filed only a single misdemeanor charge against him. That charge was dismissed four months later.
DeBusk declined to say whether Muhammad worked with police after his arrest.
"We charged him appropriately and all of the case information was presented to the DA's office," DeBusk said.
John Gill, special counsel to Knox County District Attorney Randy Nichols, said Thursday that the legal circumstances surrounding Muhammad's 2004 case prevented him from speaking about it.
"This is a weird situation in which we can't say anything and we can't explain why," Gill said.
The Knox County Criminal Court does allow defendants to request their court records be expunged. However, court officials said Thursday they had a record of Muhammad's case.
Material seized from Muhammad's truck and apartment this week included guns, ammunition and Molotov cocktails. An FBI-Homeland Security intelligence assessment document obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday suggested Muhammad may have considered targeting other locations, including Jewish and Christian sites.
The FBI said Muhammad "conducted Internet searches related to different locations in several U.S. cities" and notified authorities in those locations.
Long's funeral is set for Monday. He will be buried at the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery in North Little Rock.