A Harlan County man shot and killed by police had provoked a struggle by grabbing an officer’s gun during an attempt to escape, according to a court document filed Friday.
Mark S. Sawaf had been charged with making illegal explosive devices, but federal authorities also had opened a child-pornography investigation of him shortly before the fatal confrontation on Aug. 11, according to a separate document.
An agent of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives found an image of child pornography on Sawaf’s computer while investigating the earlier explosives charges, according to a sworn statement.
Court records do not say what else agents have found on the computer.
The case against Sawaf, 39, started after a man in Harlan County, Dustin Hall, was injured in May when a trail camera exploded and blew off several of his fingers.
Hunters mount such cameras in the woods to get images of deer and other animals.
According to court documents, ATF agents ultimately connected Sawaf to the camera and arrested him after finding materials at his house consistent with those used to make such an improvised explosive device.
A federal grand jury indicted Sawaf July 14 on eight charges of making or possessing unregistered destructive devices, a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Just days later, an ATF agent searching for evidence related to the explosives charges on a computer identified as Sawaf’s found an image of a nude girl, age 6 to 8, facing the camera with her legs spread, according to an affidavit by Richard McMahan, a special agent with the ATF.
The agent looking through the computer stopped his search in order to apply for a warrant to look for evidence of child porn, rather than just evidence related to the explosives charges, McMahan said.
McMahan applied for that warrant July 26.
Sawaf had first denied making explosive devices, but later contacted federal authorities through his attorney and said he had in fact hidden explosive devices in trail cameras and placed several more in the woods in the area where the one was found that injured Hall, according to a motion filed by Assistant U.S Attorney Andrew H. Trimble.
Sawaf offered to help police find the devices.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Hanly A. Ingram had ordered Sawaf detained pending trial in September because of a finding that he would represent a danger if released, but allowed ATF to take him to Harlan County to look for the booby-trapped trail cameras, according to the court motion.
Ingram set out several safety precautions, including an order for Sawaf to remain shackled during the search on Aug. 11.
Sawaf helped officers find and dismantle seven explosive devices in the hills near Harlan that day, but said there were others, according to the motion.
Federal authorities planned to bring Sawaf back the next day to continue searching. While they were still in the woods, however, Sawaf tried to escape, Trimble said in his motion.
Sawaf was shackled so officers caught him. As they tried to return Sawaf to custody, however, he grabbed an officer’s gun, Trimble said.
There was a struggle and an officer shot and killed Sawaf, the motion said.
State police previously identified Lexington Fire Department investigator Capt. Brad Dobrzynski, who was helping in the search for the explosive devices, as the officer who shot Sawaf.
Sawaf’s attorney, Travis Rossman, declined to comment Friday on the case.
Sawaf, an avid hunter, had a master’s degree in counseling and had owned a business where he offered mental health and substance-abuse counseling.
He was born in Michigan but moved with his family after high school to Harlan County, where his father had taken a job as a doctor.
His father, Ali Sawaf, told the Herald-Leader his son wanted to help police find the trail cameras he had put in the woods so no one would get hurt.
Mark Sawaf did not intend to hurt anyone and had only wanted to deter thieves from taking his cameras, his father said.
However, ATF agents found that three people were injured by exploding trail cameras in the area where the one that hurt Hall was found, according to a court document.
State police are continuing to investigate the confrontation that ended with Sawaf’s death. The findings will likely be presented to a grand jury.