FBI says probe into Dayton shooter's motives nearing end

CINCINNATI (AP) — The federal investigation into the motivations of a gunman who killed nine people last year in Dayton's crowded entertainment area is nearing an end, the special agent in charge of the FBI's office for southern Ohio said Thursday.

Chris Hoffman, who recently became head of the field office in Cincinnati, told reporters he couldn't give a definite timetable but expects it to conclude soon. Police who were nearby in the Oregon district fatally shot 24-year-old Connor Betts about 30 seconds after he opened fire early in the morning of Aug. 4 with an assault-style gun.

The FBI said soon afterward that it was investigating his interest in “violent ideologies.” Betts' sister was among the victims, but the significance of that was unclear.

“We're very close to wrapping it up,” Hoffman said.

He added that the office has been getting help from the FBI's behavioral analysis unit in Quantico, Virginia, “that I think will be helpful to not only the public but especially the victims as to maybe what motivated the shooter.”

Hoffman said sometimes there's no way to conclude why a shooter acted, “but we can have clues and that's how we try to prevent them in the future.”

He noted that a friend of Betts, Ethan Kollie, faces sentencing Feb. 20 for lying on a federal firearms form about a gun unrelated to shooting.

Hoffman said authorities “definitely want to send a message” to people about providing weapons or otherwise enabling people they have concerns about.

Kollie pleaded guilty in November to lying on a federal firearms form and possessing a gun while using illegal drugs. Kollie's attorney didn't immediately return a call Thursday seeking comment.

Investigators say Kollie told them he bought body armor, a 100-round magazine and a part for Betts' gun, but said there's no indication Kollie knew of Betts' plans.

At a meeting with reporters in Cincinnati, Hoffman also said the office will gain 12 agents on top of the approximately 100 it has currently, reflecting the growth of the caseloads in the region. Hoffman, 54, has been with the FBI since 1998, most recently in Washington.

He said among the high priorities for the region is combating foreign espionage. Efforts to steal secrets from Evendale, Ohio- based GE Aviation, a defense contractor, have resulted in charges against foreign nationals, and Hoffman said the FBI is working closely with private companies, hospitals and universities to protect against foreign infiltration. He said universities can be “very vulnerable.”

He said the office is also focused on preventing terrorism and probing racially motivated violent extremists.

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Follow Dan Sewell at https://www.twitter.com/dansewell

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