Oregon District shooter’s friend gets prison time

A friend of the Oregon District mass shooter who purchased parts of the weapon — including the 100-round double drum — used during the August killing spree that left nine dead was sentenced Thursday to 32 months in prison.

Ethan Kollie, 25, of Kettering, faced as many as 15 years behind bars, but the sentencing guidelines called for a much shorter prison term.

Judge Thomas Rose said Kollie’s crimes of lying on an ATF firearms form and possessing firearms as a drug user were serious.

Rose said drugs users are prohibited from possessing firearms for very good reasons, mainly because they present a danger to themselves and the community.

Kollie’s attorney had asked the court to consider probation and argued his client was extraordinarily cooperative and honest with authorities as they investigated the tragedy in the Oregon District.

In court, Kollie said he regretted his decisions and would not have broken the law if he hadn’t been using drugs.

“Your honor I know I am capable of living a law-abiding life,” he said. “Once I pay my debt to society, I will do exactly that.”

Kollie pleaded guilty on Nov. 20 to possessing a firearm by an unlawful user or addict of a controlled substance and making a false statement or representation on federal firearms records.

He was incarcerated from early August until late December, when he was released on house arrest with electronic monitoring.

MORE: Oregon District mass shooter’s friend ordered released from jail

Kollie was a regular drug user with a history of deceit and poor judgment and had a “penchant” for firearms, according to a sentencing memo filed by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio.

The memo says the sentencing guidelines for Kollie’s offenses range from 33 to 41 months in prison.

The range was reduced from 46 to 57 months because Kollie accepted responsibility for his crimes and provided timely notice he intended to plead guilty, officials said.

The evidence did not find that Kollie had actual knowledge of his friend Connor Betts’ plans to go on the Aug. 4 rampage, but he will forever be connected to the tragic event, the U.S. Attorney’s memo says.

Kollie ordered a key component and accessories Betts used in the shooting and had them shipped to his home, to avoid detection by Betts’ parents, authorities said.

Kollie helped Betts assemble the gun at his home and practiced firing the weapon at a local shooting range, all the while he regularly used marijuana and “micro doses” of psychedelic mushrooms, prosecutors said.

“When we as a society needed a clear-thinking, responsible person in the room, we instead got a regular drug user with impaired judgment,” said Vipal Patel, first assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District in Ohio. “Ask yourself, if he was clear-thinking, not using drugs, not around firearms, would the outcome have been different — it’s possible.”

Patel said he derives no joy from the 32-month prison sentence because everything about this case was tragic.

MORE: Oregon District Shooting: Shooter’s friend expected to accept plea agreement, records show

Kollie’s attorney, Nicholas Gounaris, said it’s disappointing that his client was sentenced to prison, but Kollie accepts his punishment and will serve his time. He starts his sentence at a later date.

Kollie takes full responsibility for his crimes of lying on an ATF form and possessing firearms as a drug user, but the FBI and other investigators found no evidence he is responsible for planning or taking part in the Oregon District shooting, Gounaris said.

Kollie cooperated fully with law enforcement’s investigation while they were scrambling to figure out if others were involved in the planning or execution of the mass shooting, and Kollie was honest even when he knew his comments would incriminate him, Gounaris said.

Kollie would do it all over again and answer investigators’ questions truthfully if he had to, because he realized how important it was for authorities to dig deep and find out if anyone was working with Betts during that critical time, Gounaris said.

“He’d do it again, because it was that important to him,” Gounaris said. “He’s a good person.”

Kollie hadn’t had any communications with Betts for more than a month before his rampage and knew nothing about his mind state, and there were other people in Betts’ life who were close to him and would have been in a better position to realize something bad could happen, Gounaris said.

Gounaris also wrote in his sentencing memo that he is unaware of any federal prosecution that only involves the charges against his client, without more serious accompanying charges.

The ATF investigated 12,710 offenses like Kollie’s in 2017 but only sought charges in about dozen cases, Gounaris’ sentencing memo says.

MORE: Dayton mass shooter’s friend pleads guilty to federal firearms charges

On May 9, 2019, Kollie bought a “Micro Draco” 30-round semi-automatic pistol from a local shooting range after completing a firearms transaction record.

The form asks if the signer uses or is addicted to any controlled substance, including marijuana, and Kollie lied by checking no, authorities say.

Kollie owned the weapon until it was seized by law enforcement on Aug 8 during a search of his home. Authorities also seized narcotics, psychedelic mushrooms, a bong and mushroom-growing equipment.

In March 2019, Kollie ordered Betts, his friend of years, an upper receiver for an AM-15 semi-automatic rifle that he later used to kill nine people and wound many others on East Fifth Street.

Kollie illegally possessed the AM-15 as a drug user, and he also helped assemble the gun at his home and practiced firing it.

Kollie also purchased the 100-round double drum magazine and body armor Betts used in the shooting. Kollie had these items shipped to his home as well.

Kollie did this to try to help Betts hide these items from his parents, and Kollie displayed bad and impaired judgment at a time when he could have reached out to Betts’ parents, sister, friend or simply could have said no to Betts’ requests, the prosecution memo states.

“… while high as a kite or off in psychedelic land, Kollie carried around a loaded side arm, he owned another one, he owned and shot a Micro-Draco that he lied to obtain, and, in an effort to undercut Betts’ parents, he slyly helped Betts obtain and hide accessories and parts for, and assemble, the AM-15 Betts would later all use in the mass shooting,” the sentencing memo states.

“Nothing good could ever come from it,” the memo says. “And, nothing good did.”

After finishing his prison term, Kollie will be placed on supervised release for three years.

Judge Rose ordered Kollie to undergo substance abuse and mental health treatment while incarcerated.

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