The Oregon District gunman had a friend purchase the body armor, weapons parts and a 100-drum magazine he used in the massacre so his parents wouldn’t know he had them, federal authorities alleged in a complaint first obtained by the Dayton Daily News.
The friend, Ethan Kollie, told authorities he stored the purchases at his Kettering apartment, and about 10 weeks ago helped shooter Connor Betts assemble the weapon used in the Aug. 4 massacre, the complaint says.
Kollie, 24, was arrested Friday evening in Beavercreek on suspicion of a firearms violation unrelated to the Oregon District shooting, according to the complaint and jail records. Kollie, whose concealed carry permit was confiscated by authorities, faces as many as 15 years in federal prison if convicted of the pair of offenses.
INVESTIGATION: Oregon District gunman left decade of red flags
Federal authorities said they don’t have evidence to suggest Kollie knew he was helping Betts prepare for a mass shooting.
“Although these charges have arisen out of the investigation into the shooting that took place on Aug. 4 in the Oregon District, Mr. Kollie does not stand accused of intentionally participating in the planning of that shooting,” said U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman. “There is no evidence of that, there’s no allegation of that.”
Kollie is charged with possession of a firearm by an unlawful user of any controlled substance and making false statements or representations.
“We appreciate the United States Attorney stating that there was no indication that Mr. Kollie knew that he was assisting Betts in the shooting,” defense attorney Nicholas Gounaris said Monday afternoon.
“Prior to his arrest on August 9, Mr. Kollie participated in three separate interviews with federal authorities in order to provide helpful information to aid investigators,” Gounaris said. “He does not deny his friendship with Connor Betts, and he was as shocked and surprised as everyone else that Mr. Betts committed the violent and senseless massacre in the Oregon District.”
Glassman said authorities will prosecute anyone they discover broke the law as they continue their investigation into one of the worst mass shootings in Ohio history.
Individuals who contributed in any way to the events on Aug. 4 and who broke the law will be held accountable and criminally responsible, and federal agents will not ignore evidence of other crimes, Glassman said.
Kollie told authorities he and Betts did “hard drugs,” marijuana and acid together four to five times a week between 2014 and 2015.
“Not only is possessing controlled substances illegal, but possessing controlled substances and possessing a firearm is itself a crime,” Glassman said.
Kollie told federal authorities he purchased the items and equipment for Betts, then kept them in his apartment to help Betts hide them from his parents, the complaint says.
Kollie said that, about 10 weeks ago, he helped Betts assemble the weapon used in the Oregon district shooting, the complaint says. The drum magazine arrived about six to eight weeks ago.
Betts opened fire in the Oregon District, resulting in the deaths of nine people before police shot and killed him just seconds after the rampage began.
Betts also injured dozens, either through gunfire or in the ensuing chaos near several Fifth Street bars, including Ned Peppers, Hole in the Wall, Blind Bob’s and Newcoms.
Betts wielded a semi-automatic pistol that police say was modified to act like a rifle, with an attached drum magazine that could hold up to 100 .223-caliber rounds. Police say he may have had up to 250 rounds of ammunition on him, and they found a shotgun in his car.
“I can say that the purchases at issue here were some of the equipment used on Aug. 4,” Glassman said.
The complaint says Kollie was interviewed at his house by the FBI and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in the shooting’s aftermath.
“While inside, the agents smelled marijuana and observed, in plain sight, paraphernalia consistent with smoking marijuana, including what appeared to be a ‘bong,’” the agent said in the complaint. Agents also observed a pistol, the complaint says.
Agents went to Kollie’s work Thursday, where he told the agents he and Betts had done “hard drugs,” marijuana and acid together several times a week in 2014 and 2015, the complaint says.
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Kollie also told the agents he still used marijuana. The agent’s complaint said that Kollie had checked “no” on the ATF form that must be completed to purchase a firearm from a local dealer.
“Kollie stated that he answered ‘no’ to the question regarding drug use,” the complaint says. “When asked why he lied, Kollie stated he knew that if he told the truth about his drug use, he would not be allowed to purchase a firearm, so he lied and answered ‘no.”
The form states that the use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized in the state where the applicant resides.
The ATF Background Check Form 4473 is designed to try to prevent people who cannot own firearms legally from applying for the weapons, Glassman said.
The system relies on people being honest, and if applicants are dishonest and caught, they will be prosecuted and will face as many as five years in federal prison, Glassman said.
“That form requires people to fill it out truthfully under penalty of federal prosecution,” he said.
The U.S. Attorney’s office routinely prosecutes “straw” gun buyers for lying or falsifying form 4473, Glassman said. Straw purchases occur when one person buys guns for someone else who cannot legally buy them.
There was no indication that Betts would have been more or less disqualified from buying the firearm pieces than Kollie, Glassman said.
He said at this time authorities cannot say whether Betts falsified any federal firearms forms.
Kollie would not be prohibited from purchasing the double drum magazine even though he used illegal drugs, but he is not allowed to possess firearms, Glassman said.
FBI special agent in charge Todd Wickerham said the investigation into the deadly shooting is ongoing and includes lots of evidence to review.
Wickerham said investigators last week were able to access the primary cell phone Betts had on him during his rampage.
“We are still processing and going through that,” he said. “Obviously that’s a high priority for us.”
The FBI last week opened its own investigation into Betts, alleging he explored “specific violent ideologies” before the attack. The bureau didn’t say which ideologies, nor did they identify a motive for the attack.
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