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KC officers sue gun shop that sold pistol used to shoot police in 2018 gun battles

Marlin Mack wounded three Kansas City police officers with an AK-style semi-automatic pistol last summer during a gun battle that Mack did not survive. Now those officers, plus one other who suffered emotional distress and post-traumatic stress disorder, are suing the Independence gun shop that sold Mack the weapon.

That sale was illegal, according to the lawsuit filed Wednesday in Jackson County Circuit Court. The suit names as defendants The Armory KC LLC.; two men identified as the shop’s two owners, Benjamin M. Casey and Cory D. Hubbard; as well as manager Matt Barrett and employee Chad Reed.

The plaintiffs include the four officers and their wives, all of whom are identified only by their initials.

Their key allegation is that Reed sold Mack the Century Draco pistol, even though Mack’s answer to one of the questions on a required federal background check form should have disqualified him from buying a gun.

“Is it too much to ask a federal firearms license holder to follow the law and not sell firearms to felons?” Louis Accurso, the attorney representing the officers, said Wednesday.

Previously, the FBI had said that Mack passed the background check because he lied on the form. Authorities did not specify what he lied about, but Mack had a long criminal record, which should have blocked the sale had that been disclosed.

The lawsuit, however, presents a new wrinkle. It alleges that Mack replied in the affirmative to a question on ATF Form 4473, an admission that should have been a red flag when he made the purchase on July 14, 2018.

Question 11.b asks: “Are you under indictment or information in any court for a felony, or any other crime for which the judge could imprison you for more than one year?”

According to the suit, Mack checked “yes,” and store personnel approved the sale anyway.

“Defendant Reed reviewed Mack’s completed Form 4473,” the lawsuit said. “After review, Defendant Reed signed Mack’s completed form 4473 and completed the sale.”

The store’s owners declined comment Wednesday.

Marlin Mack_fitted 2.jpeg
Marlin Mack, 25, was identified by Kansas City Police as the gunman killed during a firefight with officers near 29th Street and Topping Avenue

Mack was, in fact, not under indictment at the time of the sale. But Kansas City police had begun investigating him in connection with the murder earlier that month of Sharath Koppu, a University of Missouri-Kansas City student. Koppu was working at a fast-food restaurant in the 5400 Block of Prospect Avenue when a man, later identified as Mack, shot and killed him during a robbery.

The gun used to kill Koppu was not the same as one Mack used in two police shootouts that occurred the day after he bought the pistol from The Armory KC.

When two members of a police tactical crew first confronted him outside a motel on East 40 Highway, Mack got out of a car and began firing. The suit says both officers suffered “permanent and disabling injuries” from gunshot and ricochet wounds. One man sustained wounds to his left elbow and knee, while the other was treated for multiple wounds to his torso, buttocks, right foot and left leg.

Mack escaped, but police caught up with him again that day in the 2900 block of Topping Avenue and another gun battle erupted. He shot another officer in the arm before being killed by police.

The suit says the gun shop’s “negligence directly caused” the officers’ injuries.

Last August, one of the store’s co-owners told The Star that The Armory KC sold Mack the gun before he was publicly identified as a suspect in Koppu’s killing.

Mack was well-dressed, Hubbard said, presented the proper personal identification and filled out the federal form. The information was then relayed to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

“He gave his ID, we entered it into the computer and they said proceed,” he said. “He passed in under two minutes.”

However, federal authorities later said Mack gave the Independence gun shop false biographical information that allowed him to pass the background check. Because the false information did not match a prohibited record, the request was cleared to proceed, authorities said last August.

Law enforcement officials did not say what specific information Mack falsified on the background check.

Shortly after the shootout, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives launched an investigation into how Mack was able to purchase the weapon. A bureau spokesman did not respond to request for comment on Wednesday.

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Mike Hendricks is a member of The Star’s investigations and watchdog reporting team. Send tips and story ideas in confidence by email to mhendricks@kcstar.com, Twitter direct message @kcmikehendricks, or anonymously via Signal encrypted message at 816-234-4738
Glenn E. Rice covers crime, courts and breaking news for The Kansas City Star, where he’s worked since 1988. Rice is a Kansas City native and a graduate of the University of Central Missouri.
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