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Academy Sports Settles Lawsuits for Straw Purchases

The national sporting goods retailer agreed to pay $2.5 million to the families of a serial killer’s victims

Academy Sports and Outdoors, a large sporting goods retailer with over 280 locations in 18 states, has agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle three lawsuits related to how a Spartanburg County, South Carolina, serial killer obtained his firearms.

Filed in 2018 and 2019 by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence on behalf of the family members of Charles Carver, Johnny Coxie, and Meagan Coxie, the lawsuits alleged that Academy Sports “ignored clear ‘red flags’” in selling firearms to Dustan Lawson, who illegally straw purchased the guns for now-convicted serial killer Todd Kohlhepp — including the Glock pistol that Kohlhepp allegedly used to murder Carver and the Coxies.

Carver and the Coxies were found shot and killed on Kohlhepp’s 96-acre property in Woodruff, South Carolina, in 2016, though Kohlhepp was legally prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms due to a 1987 rape conviction.

Kohlhepp later pleaded guilty to killing seven people in May 2017. A year later, Lawson pleaded guilty to 36 counts of federal firearm charges, including illegally purchasing guns and silencers for Kohlhepp.

ignoring red flags

In a statement regarding the settlement, Brady alleged that Academy Sports “knowingly facilitated the straw sales” from Lawson to Kohlhepp by ignoring certain behaviors, including “abnormally frequent purchases of the same or similar type of firearms in a short period of time. In one or more of the straw purchase transactions, the shooter was present, provided instructions on which firearms to buy, provided the purchaser with cash, and drove away with the firearms in his vehicle, while the straw purchaser left separately.”

Brady’s complaint also alleged that Academy Sports should have flagged Lawson’s “nervous and anxious behavior during gun transactions,” his “age and inexperience,” and that he paid for the guns with large sums of cash, including two Glock pistols that he purchased eight days apart to evade multiple handgun sale reporting requirements.

Reports indicate that Lawson purchased the firearms from Academy Sports locations in Greenville and Spartanburg Counties between 2012 and 2016 before handing the guns off to Kohlhepp. A former ATF agent also submitted a report on behalf of the plaintiffs confirming that “Kohlhepp was with Lawson when he bought two guns from Academy in 2014 and that the store sold Kohlhepp a firearm directly moments later.”

Brady’s lawyers had argued that “systemic failures in Academy’s business practices led to Academy employees not blocking the sale of guns to the straw purchaser or calling law enforcement. Had Academy acted responsibly and lawfully, it could have denied access to the firearm that was ultimately used to kill Charles, Meagan, and Johnny.”

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