Edward Kimpton Jr. of Columbia, loved high-powered rifles.
With innate computer skills, the 26-year-old former Midlands Technical College student for two years operated one of South Carolina’s most sophisticated gun-theft schemes, prosecutors say. He used 15 different aliases, 58 email addresses and five bank accounts. Using the mail, he stole weapons from at least 24 victims in 17 states.
Kimpton, who is autistic, also showed signs of being a potential mass killer, according to a confidential government report parts of which were read aloud in a three-hour federal court hearing Wednesday.
“I’ve never had a case like this,” Judge Joe Anderson said.
Anderson gave Kimpton five years in prison for gun theft and mail fraud — the maximum in a negotiated plea deal between defense and prosecution.
Anderson also overruled a motion by Kimpton’s attorney, Jonathan Harvey, asking to remove a paragraph in a confidential pre-sentencing report that refers to Kimpton as possibly being capable of mass violence. The report will be read by Kimpton’s future prison and probation officials at a later date.
That assessment predicting possible future violence was just an allegation, anecdotal and unreliable, argued Harvey, who spent more than an hour trying to get Anderson to delete the paragraph.
Well-known S.C. forensic psychiatrist Donna Maddox, a defense witness, told the judge that Kimpton’s focus on guns wasn’t about violence. His autism causes him to obsessively focus on various subjects one at a time, and guns were just one of many of his obsessions, she testified.
“He latches onto something and then spends a lot of time looking at it,” Maddox testified.
In response, Anderson said, “I hear your argument, but in the world we live in today, I don’t think we can ignore warnings about mass violence,” adding that he gave credence to observations by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents who arrested Kimpton and by people who have known the defendant.
Those observations included opinions that he was suicidal and a bullied loner who gave off “school shooter vibes.”
The evaluation will remain in the report “as a matter of information,” Anderson said.
“I can’t be oblivious to recent events in this country,” Anderson continued. “Every time it (mass shootings) happens the cry goes up, ‘Why didn’t somebody do something? Why didn’t somebody say something?’”
At the same time, Anderson said he wanted it known that he wasn’t going to sentence Kimpton “on the suspicion that he may be a future mass murderer.”
During jail visits with Kimpton, where he’s been since 2020, Kimpton’s delved into subjects as varied as federal sentencing reforms, real estate and the Bible, which he began reading from aloud for four hours a day, Maddox testified.
Other topics included politics and law school.
Kimpton registers “moderate” on the autism scale, has no political ideologies, and was deeply affected by the sudden death of his father in 2015 from a heart attack at the age of 50, Maddox testified. He was a 20-year U.S. Air Force veteran whom a family member said was Kimpton’s best friend and mentor.
Maddox, who has interviewed mass killers, said Kimpton shows none of their traits. He is not disgruntled, not angry with others and doesn’t blame others for his plight, she testified.
Guns were a way Kimpton was “trying to keep close to his father” because the two did many activities together, including going shooting, Maddox testified. When they first met, he told her, “I’m a patriot, and I love this country.”
Maddox admitted to Anderson that the facts in the case gave her “some concern,” but her evaluation of Kimpton was that he is not a potential mass murderer.
Ex-college student found flaw in internet gun buys
When arrested in April 2020, Kimpton was found with 94 guns, night scopes, body armor, chemical gas grenades, seven bump stocks and various tactical combat gear.
Agents found he had exploited a flaw in internet gun purchases.
Kimpton would contact people selling weapons at online gun marketplace sites and pay for them with a credit card, said federal prosecutor Elliott Daniels.
Guns would then be shipped to a federally licensed firearms dealer, but while they were being shipped, Kimpton would go on the internet and reroute the purchase to an address of a friend. Then Kimpton would retrieve the weapon and file a claim that the weapon had been lost. He would wind up with the weapon as well as the refund of his money, according to evidence in the case.
“His victims were individual sellers,” Daniels said.
An audit of Kimpton’s computer showed he had done searches for mass shooting incidents, including the 2015 mass shooting at Charleston’s Mother Emanuel AME Church, where nine Black churchgoers were slain by a white supremacist. He also researched the 2018 Florence shooting, where two police officers were killed and five were wounded by an armed man firing a rifle from the inside of his house, evidence in the case showed.
At the time of his arrest, agents located some $73,000 in one of Kimpton’s bank accounts, $44,000 of which will be used to compensate some of his victims.
In 2018, two years before his 2020 arrest, ATF agents and the Richland County Sheriff’s Department caught wind of his scheme and warned him to stop, Daniels said. When agents came in April 2020 to his house, where he lived alone with his mother, Kimpton had been alerted to the investigation and had a backpack by the front door, a new cell phone and a gun box that indicated he was ready to flee, Daniels said.
Kimpton’s mother, sister and older brother, Donald, were in court Wednesday. They have all pledged to support him when he leaves prison.
“He feels incredibly upset with himself. He did not intend to cause hurt to his family,” Song Kimpton, a brother, told the judge. “He is never going to do this again.”
He described his brother as a “warm” and “loving” person.
“This is a huge valuable lesson that he has learned,” he said.
Kimpton, dressed in a jail jump suit and in chains, told the judge that his infatuation with guns was solely to honor his father.
“It is absolutely not true” that he would ever commit violence against anyone, he said. He only researched mass killings on the internet because, he said, “I am the type person who has a curiosity about a lot of things.”
“I acknowledge my crime can’t be unpunished. I will never ever commit this same crime, or any crime, ever again,” he said. “I understand what I did was wrong.”
As part of his sentence, Anderson told Kimpton he will be on supervised release for three years after prison and, during that time, will have to be evaluated by a mental health professional and undergo treatment if recommended. The judge also explained that software will be uploaded on his computer to monitor his digital activity.
Anderson described Kimpton’s two-year gun theft operation as highly sophisticated.
“It was not some seat of the pants scheme,” he said. “It was something that required planning over a long period of time.”
He urged Kimpton to use his intelligence for lawful purposes and make his late father proud of him.
“You can never possess a weapon or a firearm for the rest of your life unless you receive a presidential pardon. Are we clear on that?” Anderson told Kimpton.
“Yes, sir, your honor,” Kimpton replied.