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Gun seller to Va. Tech shooter shuts down
Online dealer was facing a police probe
MADISON, WIS. (AP) — An online weapons dealer who sold the handgun used in the Virginia Tech massacre and provided equipment in two other mass shootings has quietly closed up shop amid a flurry of complaints from customers who say he failed to deliver orders after billing them.
Police say Eric Thompson last month abruptly closed his Green Bay, Wis.-based business, TGSCOM Inc., as they probed scores of complaints from customers in nearly every state.
TGSCOM's connections to three mass shootings have drawn national attention in recent years.
Seung-Hui Cho used a .22-caliber handgun purchased through TGSCOM when he killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in April 2007. Stephen Kazmierczak, who killed five people in a Northern Illinois University classroom in 2008, bought two empty magazines and a holster through a company site. George Sodini, who killed three women when he opened fire at a Pittsburgh-area health club in 2009, bought an empty magazine and a magazine loading apparatus from the company.
Mr. Thompson, who has claimed his company generates millions of dollars, has maintained he's not responsible for how people use guns, but he still has had run-ins with federal regulators and now he has dozens of people across the country angry with him.
"It gives everybody who does business online a bad name," said Dennis Johnson, a 60-year-old Web designer in Omaha, Ark. He filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau this month and has started disparaging TGSCOM on his blog after the company billed him almost $70 for two empty magazine cartridges that never arrived.
His site "looked reputable," Mr. Johnson said. "The guy talked about integrity and all this crap. ... And meanwhile, where is all the money going?"
Mr. Thompson told the Green Bay Press Gazette that he was doing his best to solve his problems and locate investors who could help him reopen. He said he doubted he would face criminal charges. Both he and his lawyer did not respond to calls by the Associated Press.
The business controlled a number of websites with names such as TopGlock.com and the Gun Source that offered firearms and accessories. Its still-functioning Facebook page includes photographs of guns, as well as shots of a cumulus cloud shaped like a handgun and a woman in a bikini top clutching two semi-automatic pistols.
Mr. Thompson defended the sales to the three mass shooters, saying any of them could have just as easily bought their gear at a Wal-Mart. He said in 2009 his company is on the forefront of the industry and generated millions of dollars in sales that year, but he wasn't "some backwoods guy just looking to make a buck off of tragedy."
Still, he visited Virginia Tech a year after the shootings there and pressed the school to allow students to carry concealed weapons. He drew support from students but the wrath of university officials and parents, who called the visit offensive and chastised him for selling products designed to kill people.
The Wisconsin Better Business Bureau has cataloged nearly 200 complaints from consumers in 44 states between January and this week accused the business of failing to deliver on billed orders.
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