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Press Release

Kirkwood Man Admits Gun Crimes

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Missouri

ST. LOUIS – A man from Kirkwood, Missouri on Tuesday admitted repeatedly possessing firearms after having been committed to a mental institution, in violation of federal law.

Joseph Zarky, 24, pleaded guilty in front of U.S. District Judge Audrey G. Fleissig to two counts of possession of a firearm after being previously committed to a mental institution.

“Police encountered Mr. Zarky behaving erratically while in the possession of firearms, a bloody knife, and animal parts,” said U.S. Attorney Sayler A. Fleming after Tuesday’s hearing. “After each encounter, he would try or succeed in buying more firearms and ammunition. This plea agreement is designed not to send him to prison, but to ensure that he receives the medication and treatment that he needs for the maximum amount of time we can provide. The felony conviction will also serve as an additional barrier if Mr. Zarky attempts to buy guns in the future.”

As part of his plea, Zarky admitted being caught by police with firearms on multiple occasions.

On June 1, 2021, Webster Groves Police Department officers responding to a report of an unstable person encountered Zarky, who was acting erratically and was in possession of multiple firearms, ammunition, and several plastic bags containing animal body parts. Relatives told police that he had a history of mental illness and they were concerned for his and their safety. More guns, ammunition and weapons were found in his bedroom. Police took Zarky to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. After a June 10, 2021 court hearing, Zarky was ordered involuntarily committed to a hospital for treatment. He remained there until June 25.

On July 2 and July 7 of 2021, Zarky unsuccessfully tried to purchase firearms in a store.

On July 28, 2021, Webster Groves police conducted a traffic stop near the intersection of South Old Orchard Avenue and Big Bend Boulevard and recognized Zarky from previous interactions. They asked Zarky if he had any guns and he said he did. He had a .22-caliber revolver in the waistband of his shorts and a 9mm pistol in a bag on his left hip. He said he bought the firearms at a gun show.

On September 30, 2021, Webster Groves police were called again about Zarky. Officers found Zarky in a wooded area nearby, and he ran from officers. When police caught Zarky, they found him in possession of a knife with animal blood on it. He was again taken to the hospital and later ordered by a judge to be involuntarily committed to a hospital for treatment, where he stayed until October 20, 2021. While he was hospitalized, relatives found an AR-15 rifle hidden under a comforter in the backseat of Zarky’s vehicle.

On January 29, 2022, St. Louis County police received a call for “shots fired” at a disc golf course in Unger Park. Officers were told about 24 shots had been fired. Upon arrival, officers found Zarky with a 9mm pistol in his waistband and a .22-caliber rifle nearby.

Zarky was indicted in U.S. District Court in St. Louis on May 4, 2022 and arrested in Kentucky May 7. He has been in jail since that time.

On May 9, 2022, federal agents executed a court-approved search of Zarky’s apartment in Kirkwood and found fifteen guns and over 4,000 rounds of ammunition in two safes.

As part of the plea agreement, both the U.S. Attorney’s office and Zarky’s lawyer have agreed to recommend a series of measures to ensure that Zarky undergoes treatment and is compliant with all prescribed mental health medications. The agreement recommends five years of probation, during which time Zarky will participate in a location monitoring program and reside in a residential facility approved by the U.S. Probation Office.

Zarky also agreed to participate in the Janis C. Good Mental Health Court, where participants receive treatment, counseling and resources from trained professionals to address persistent mental health issues, while at the same time being intensively supervised to ensure that they comply with the conditions of probation.

The sentence is ultimately up to Judge Fleissig. Zarky is scheduled to be sentenced July 10.

The Webster Groves Police Department, the St. Louis County Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Szczucinski is prosecuting the case.

Updated March 28, 2023

Firearms Offenses