The leader of the National Rifle Association said in a deposition that he fled to a private yacht out of fear for his safety following the Sandy Hook and Parkland school shootings.
The 108-foot yacht ― complete with two Sea-Doo WaveRunners and a staff of four people, including a cook ― was where Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the gun rights group, fled after those mass shootings of schoolchildren in 2012 and 2018.
“They simply let me use it as a security retreat because they knew the threat that I was under,” LaPierre said in a weekend deposition in Texas, where he hopes the NRA can file for bankruptcy to avoid a lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
LaPierre said the decision to flee to his friend’s yacht, named The Illusion, was due to threats he received after the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead. LaPierre then fled to the yacht a second time in 2018 following the Parkland, Florida, school shooting that left 17 dead, according to his deposition.
“And I was basically under presidential threat without presidential security in terms of the number of threats I was getting,” LaPierre continued. “And this was the one place that I hope I could feel safe, where I remember getting there going, ‘Thank God I’m safe, nobody can get me here.’ And that’s how it happened. That’s why I used it.”
The bankruptcy hearing is expected to last six days, and will likely determine the future of the NRA, which has been drowning in legal fees over the last year amid the threat of losing its tax-exempt status following an investigation from the New York attorney general that found the gun group lost $64 million over three years. Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl Racine is also suing the group, alleging donor money meant to fund firearms safety and training was “diverted to support wasteful spending by the NRA and its executives.”
The NRA was also dropped by its ad agency, Ackerman McQueen, which has asked a federal court to reject the NRA’s attempt to file for bankruptcy in Texas, according to The Washington Post. The gun group has also seen a steep decline in leadership as board members have jumped ship in the past two years.
Adding to the list of the group’s enemies is Joshua Powell, the former chief of staff whom the NRA fired in January for allegedly charging $58,000 in personal expenses to the nonprofit.
The NRA is “rife with fraud and corruption,” and LaPierre “couldn’t run an organization on a fiscally sound basis to save his life,” Powell wrote in a recent book about the group.
As the bankruptcy hearing continues, NRA lawyer Greg Garman conceded to the New York Daily News that there will likely be more embarrassing news to come.
“Are there going to be facts that are moderately cringeworthy?” Garman told the publication. “The answer is yes. We’re not going to run from them.”