Felon passed background check to buy gun, then shot 3 Kansas City police officers

August 18, 2018

KANSAS CITY — A convicted felon suspected of killing a University of Missouri-Kansas City graduate student last month somehow passed a federal background check to buy a firearm before shooting three Kansas City police officers during a series of gunfights, according to authorities.

Marlin James Mack Jr., 25, died in the shootout July 15. The FBI said that Mack — whose prior convictions barred him from legally possessing a firearm — gave an Independence gun shop false biographical information that allowed him to pass the background check.

“That information can only be verified at the point of sale,” according to a statement from the FBI office in Kansas City. “The false information was submitted to the FBI and searched through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). As the false information did not match a prohibited record, the request was cleared to proceed.”

Law enforcement officials did not say what specific information Mack falsified on the background check. They also did not say if Mack’s purchase included a gun used in the shootout with police.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is investigating how Mack, who had a criminal history that included a robbery conviction, came into possession of the firearm, said John Ham, a spokesman for the agency’s Kansas City field office.

Because their investigation is ongoing, Ham declined further comment.

Mack was quickly identified as the man captured on video surveillance moments before Sharath Koppu was gunned down during a robbery at J’s Fish and Chicken Market at 5412 Prospect Ave., where the student worked.

Days later, undercover detectives and tactical response officers found Mack in the Sky Vu Motel on U.S. 40 in east Kansas City. Two officers were wounded after they exchanged gunfire with Mack as he fled.

Mack shot and wounded a third officer before Mack died hours later in a shootout with police at a home in the 2900 block of Topping Avenue.

Federal law requires anyone purchasing a gun to fill out a Form 4473. The buyer has to provide full name, current address, date of birth, height, weight, gender, ethnicity and race.

The seller is required to match the information provided by the buyer to a government-issued photo identification card — a driver’s license or an identification card issued by the state in place of a driver’s license.

The seller then contacts the National Instant Criminal Background Check System by phone or online and delivers the buyer’s information. The NICS scans its database to determine if the buyer can legally purchase the firearm.

Cory Hubbard, an owner of the Armory KC gun store at 10531 East U.S. 40, said Mack purchased a firearm from his store between the time Sharath Koppu was killed and the shootout with police.

Hubbard said no one at the gun store was aware that police had identified Mack as a suspect in the student’s death.

Mack was well-dressed, presented the proper personal identification and passed the federal background check with no problems.

“We get so many people,” Hubbard said. “It wasn’t like hey, that guy was a customer. We didn’t have any idea until the feds popped in and told us about it. Obviously, it’s terrible.”

Hubbard declined to say what type of firearm Mack purchased that day.

Everyone involved is confused, said Armory KC shop manager Matt Barrett.

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

“When the ATF came by they were kind of confused and they said it’s an FBI deal,” Barrett said. “We did what we were supposed to do. It’s a finger-pointing deal.”

Mack’s criminal record dated back to his days as a teen in Tulsa, when he was arrested for stealing a car. Other run-ins with the law included robbing a woman in front of her three small children and then fleeing in a vehicle with his girlfriend.

Hubbard said the gun shop followed all federal guidelines when Mack bought the firearm from them.

“We love our local law enforcement. We would never sell anything that we thought would harm anyone,” Hubbard said. “If we had any kind of clue, obviously we would not have sold him the gun.”

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