Friend of Dayton shooter helped him assemble weapon, bought him body armor, FBI says

A friend of the gunman who killed nine people outside a Dayton, Ohio, bar last week told authorities he bought body armor and equipment for the attacker and helped him assemble the weapon used in the rampage, according to a court filing unsealed Monday.

Those details were included in a criminal complaint charging the friend — Ethan Kollie, 24 — with two counts related to his purchase and possession of firearms. Neither count relates to the shooting itself.

Benjamin C. Glassman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, stressed that while the charges emerged from the investigation into the Dayton shooting, they included no suggestion that Kollie knowingly played a role in plotting the attack.

“Mr. Kollie does not stand accused of intentionally participating in the planning of that shooting,” Glassman said at a news briefing. “We have no evidence of that. There’s no allegation of that.”

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An attorney for Kollie said in a statement that his client spoke to federal officials three times to try to help the investigation.



Mourners hold candles as they gather for a vigil at a memorial outside Cielo Vista Walmart in El Paso. (Luke E. Montavon/Bloomberg)

“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,” the attorney said in the statement.“We appreciate the United States Attorney stating that there was no indication that Mr. Kollie knew that he was assisting Betts in the shooting.”

Jail records showed that Kollie was arrested Friday evening, the same day the criminal complaint was filed. Kollie was charged with possessing a firearm while being an unlawful user of a controlled substance and making a false statement regarding firearms.

Authorities said Betts, a 24-year-old described by some who knew him as having a history of violence against girlfriends and a “hit list” of people he hoped to target, had donned body armor and a mask before opening fire with an AR-15-style weapon in a Dayton nightlife area early Aug. 4.

Before police officers shot and killed him, Betts killed nine people , among them his 22-year-old sibling.

The Dayton attack occurred hours after a gunman in El Paso opened fire at a shopping center popular with people on both sides of the border, killing 22 people and injuring dozens more. Police said the gunman in El Paso told them he was targeting “Mexicans,” and authorities have called the El Paso shooting domestic terrorism.

[The lives lost in Dayton]

In Dayton, the FBI said it was investigating the shooting after learning that Betts explored “specific violent ideologies.” Officials have said they are still seeking clarity on what could have motivated Betts.

Kollie and Betts were friends who had repeatedly done “hard drugs” together, P. Andrew Gragan, an FBI special agent, wrote in an affidavit included in the complaint.

Kollie told FBI agents that he bought the body armor, equipment for the gun and a 100-round double-drum magazine that Betts later used during the massacre, Gragan wrote. He bought those items and stored them in his house “to assist Betts in hiding them from Betts’ parents,” Gragan wrote.

Kollie also told the FBI that about 10 weeks before the shooting, he was in his apartment, watching and helping Betts assemble the weapon later used in the shooting. Weeks later, Betts retrieved the gun, magazine and body armor, Gragan wrote.

Betts’s family members have said they were “shocked and devastated” by the shooting and pledged to cooperate with law enforcement.

[Even with ‘red flags,’ mass shooters often slip through the cracks]

The complaint also quotes Kollie as acknowledging both drug use and lying about it on a federal form to be able to purchase a gun.

Federal agents interviewed Kollie on the day of the shooting, when he told them that he bought the body armor and a firearm accessory for Betts earlier in the year, Gragan wrote. The agents smelled marijuana, saw devices for smoking marijuana and learned that Kollie possessed two guns, Gragan wrote.

Four days later, the FBI interviewed him again, asking about Betts and their drug use together, which occurred “four to five times a week during 2014 to 2015,” Gragan wrote. Kollie also told agents that he has smoked marijuana every day for a decade, Gragan said.

That same day, Gragan added, FBI agents conducting a search warrant asked Kollie if he had anything on him; he had a bag of marijuana and a revolver. Kollie also told agents that he grew and used psychedelic mushrooms, Gragan wrote.

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A firearms transaction form filled out by Kollie showed that he checked “No” in response to a question asking whether he unlawfully used marijuana or any other drug, according to Gragan. When asked why he answered that way, Gragan wrote, Kollie admitted that he lied to be able to obtain the gun.

Even though neither of the counts relates directly to the Dayton shooting rampage, the charges are the first to arise out of the investigation into the massacre.

Investigations into terrorist attacks and mass killings have led to essentially unrelated criminal cases in the past. After the 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif., officials arrested three people connected to the shooters and accused them of a marriage fraud conspiracy, something officials said they discovered during their investigation into the deadly attack.

In El Paso, the shooting suspect was arrested and has been charged with capital murder. Federal officials have said they are weighing federal hate crimes charges in that case.

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