Gun Dealer Apologizes at Hearing

The Associated Press, November 13, 1999
By Catherine Tsai

GOLDEN, Colo. (AP) - A man who helped arm the Columbine High School killers apologized to relatives of the slain as he was sentenced to six years in prison.

"I can't adequately express my sorrow to the families of the victims," said Mark Manes, 22. "I am truly very sorry."

Jefferson County District Judge Henry Nieto sentenced Manes to six years in prison for supplying Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold with a TEC-DC9 handgun, and another three years to be served concurrently for possessing a sawed-off shotgun.

Manes pleaded guilty to selling the pistol to Harris and Klebold for $500 in January, and buying ammunition for them the night before the April 20 massacre. He faced up to 18 years.

At Friday's hearing, prosecutors read from transcripts of videotapes seized at the home of one of the gunmen.

On the tape, Harris says: "Oh, I'd like to make a thank you to Mark and Phil (Duran). Very cool. You helped us do what we needed to do. Thank you."

Duran is accused of introducing the teens to Manes. His case is pending.

The gunmen made several videotapes describing events leading up to the attack in what investigators said was an attempt to make themselves into cult heroes. Authorities said they will not make them public.

On the tape, Harris and Klebold said Manes and Duran should not be held responsible for the mass shooting.

"Yeah, you know, it's not their fault ... We used them," Klebold said.

Harris added that if Manes hadn't helped out, "then we would have found someone else. We would have gone on and on. We would have found some way around it, 'cause that's what we do."

Kate Battan, Jefferson County's lead investigator in the Columbine shootings, said the semiautomatic pistol sold by Manes to Klebold was fired 55 times during the attack, killing four people and wounding two.

In all, 13 people were killed in the attack before the gunmen committed suicide. Two shotguns and a rifle were used for the rest of the killings, but they were not linked to Manes.

Manes bowed his head as nine relatives of the victims told of the carnage and the aftermath.

Kristen Townsend, sister of shooting victim Lauren Townsend, said "13 beautiful lives have been taken tragically and unfairly."

"Did Mark Manes shoot and kill my sister? No. ... But he sold the weapons and he must be punished for it," she said.

Defense attorney Robert Ransome said people should blame society for the culture of violence that afflicts society's youth, and said Manes cooperated with police.

"None of us knew what Harris and Klebold were up to. None of us," Ransome said.

But Ms. Battan also said the killers practiced shooting with Manes, aiming at trees and saying, "Imagine if that's someone's brain."

"What I heard in the courtroom today, I hope no family will ever have to endure or go through," said Cindy Thirouin, daughter of slain teacher Dave Sanders.

Duran, 22, a former coworker of the gunmen, is charged with providing a gun to a minor, which carries up to six years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

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