The man who sold an AR-15-style rifle used in a last year's mass shooting that killed seven people in West Texas pleaded guilty Wednesday to unlicensed firearms dealing.
According to plea papers unsealed Wednesday, Marcus Anthony Braziel, 45, of Lubbock, admitted selling the rifle Seth Aaron Ator, 36, of Odessa, used when he killed seven people and wounded 25 others in the Midland-Odessa area. The rampage ended when police shot Ator dead.
According to court documents, Braziel admitted selling Ator an AR-15-style rifle on Oct. 8, 2016 -- nearly three years before the Aug. 31, 2019, shooting rampage.
Documents said Ator, who had been adjudicated “mentally defective” and was therefore legally prohibited from possessing firearms, first attempted to purchase a gun from a sporting goods store but was rejected after his mental status was flagged in the national database. He later purchased a gun from Mr. Braziel, who elected not to run background checks on any of his buyers.
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Background checks are not necessarily required for in-state, private transfers. However, Braziel admitted he was “engaged in the business of selling firearms” and therefore should have been licensed and conducting background checks. He admitted routinely buying firearm firing mechanisms, using milling equipment to build them into guns, then selling them for profits of $100-$200.
“As this case makes clear, dealing firearms without a license isn’t some obscure, technical violation. It is unlawful conduct that has real-world impact and the potential for devastating results,” Nealy Cox said in a news conference Wednesday. “If you’re a firearms dealer – whether you’re selling out of a brick-and-mortar store, in your basement, or online – you must ensure that a background check is conducted on your purchasers.”
In a four-year span, the U.S. Attorney's office says ATF agents discovered Braziel inadvertently sold firearms to four prohibited persons: a convicted felon, a man under felony indictment, an immigrant in the U.S. illegally, and Ator, a man who the courts deemed unfit to possess a firearm.
In addition to concealing his unlicensed dealing, Braziel also pleaded guilty to concealing the proceeds from weapons sales from the IRS, according to a statement from federal prosecutors.
Braziel now faces up to five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set.