COLUMBUS — A guilty plea by a man charged with providing the gun used to kill two Ohio police officers illustrates the danger of illegal gun purchases, a U.S. Attorney in Ohio said Thursday.
The case involved a practice known as "straw purchases," in which people permitted to buy guns under federal law buy them for people, typically felons, who aren’t able to do so themselves.
"Straw purchasing is dangerous, and this case makes that more clear than any other case," said Ben Glassman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio.
Federal prosecutors say 30-year-old Gerald Lawson, of suburban Cleveland, bought the handgun that 31-year-old Quentin Smith used in the February slayings of Westerville officers Eric Joering and Anthony Morelli.
Lawson pleaded guilty Thursday before U.S. Judge Edmund Sargus to aiding and abetting a prohibited person in possession of a firearm. Lawson’s family and public defender didn’t comment.
Lawson faces 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. No sentencing date was set.
A criminal complaint says Smith gave Lawson the money to buy the gun — a Glock semi-automatic — along with $100 for completing the transaction. Smith wasn’t allowed to have weapons because of a previous burglary conviction.
The government says Lawson lied on a federal purchasing form when he said he wasn’t buying the gun for someone else.
Lawson and Smith were longtime friends, and Lawson knew Smith couldn’t have a weapon, authorities said. A social media post by Lawson after the February shootings "referenced the long-standing friendship between the two," according to a complaint filed earlier this year by the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives.
Smith was indicted in March on charges that carry the possibility of a death sentence.