MUNCIE, Ind. — A convicted criminal with an extremely violent past was able to pass a federal background check by filling it with lies, then nearly killed his landlord.
The night of the shooting
It was a quiet Saturday night in Muncie. Tony Ong, the manager of a small apartment complex, walked outside to greet tenants. Ong is known to be friendly and caring, not a typical manager who hounds tenants for their rent.
Ong said he had a brief conversation with a man known to him as Rodney Patterson.
“He was getting ready to walk into his apartment and I asked him, ‘Hey, Rodney. Are you coming down to pay rent now?’”
Minutes later, Patterson snapped. Ong never thought a simple question could lead to such violence. Patterson turned around and shot Ong right in the chest.
“I didn’t see what was in his hand. All I did was see a flash, felt a pain in my chest,” Ong said.
In dramatic calls to 911, Ong can be heard gasping for air, not believing he had much time to hold on.
“I can’t do much of anything (cough) It’s right in the chest,” Ong said to the dispatcher.
Body cam video from Muncie Police Officer Chase Winkle showed a quick response, less than two minutes to Ong’s apartment. Winkle knocked on Ong’s door, and Ong answered, holding his chest tight.
Officer Winkle used his two fingers and shoved them into the bullet hole in the middle of Ong’s chest to stop the bleeding. It was a desperate attempt to save the man’s life and it worked.
Ong was quickly rushed to the hospital where he spent more than a month in the ICU. He was in a coma for about two weeks. At first, his prognosis didn’t look good.
“The police and doctors were both amazed that I survived, because like I said, dead center through my chest. It missed my heart by about an inch,” Ong said.
Back at the apartment, Ong’s assailant was barricaded and ready for battle.
“We found him behind the door. He was wearing a helmet, a motorcycle type helmet, a lot of thick clothing along with two firearms and some knives,” said Muncie Police Detective Nathan Sloan.
Patterson is a man with a shaded past. He's also known as Kenan Abraman, but he had his name legally changed at some point. He was previously convicted of multiple felonies and was declared legally insane. He was in possession of not one, but two guns.
“He purchased those firearms and within six hours had shot his landlord,” Sloan said.
The gun purchases
Six hours before the shooting, Abraman walked into a Rural King in Muncie. He quickly browsed the shelves and filled out a federal background check form. The clerk submitted the form, unaware of Abraman’s criminal history and the fact the form was filled with lies.
The background check cleared.
Minutes later, he can be seen on surveillance video walking out of the store with two handguns, both black 9mm pistols.
The background check form
WTTV obtained a copy of Abraman’s form, also known as a 4473. The form asks for basic information such as name, address, and date of birth.
There’s also a “yes or no” questionnaire that should flag anyone not legally allowed to possess or buy a gun.
Abraman checked “no” on multiple questions on his form, meaning he lied on a federal document.
Question 11-C asks if the person filling out the form has ever been convicted of a felony. On the box, Abraman checked “no.” Abraman has been convicted of multiple felony crimes in the past.
Another section includes a space to provide an optional social security number. Investigators said the one Abraman wrote down was fake. It doesn’t match his name.
“We’ve had several instances where he’s provided false information about who he was,” Sloan said.
Copy of Abraman's firearms transaction record here.
Abraman’s criminal history
Throughout his life, Abraman has been accused of a handful of crimes in both Howard and Delaware Counties.
He was once charged with theft for stealing an elderly woman’s purse. In 2009, he was convicted of felony criminal recklessness in Howard County for stabbing his sister.
WTTV obtained surveillance video from another case in 2015 showing Amraman and a Walmart manager wrestling with multiple knives. Police said the manager was stabbed. In that case, a jury found him not guilty by reason of insanity. Abraman was ordered to enter a mental health facility.
On Indiana’s Department of Corrections website, Abraman, listed at Rodney Patterson, shows multiple felony sentences including; theft in Howard County in 2011; robbery in Howard County in 1995; and theft in Howard County in 1993.
How he passed the background check
It’s still unclear exactly how Abraman passed the background check. The document sent from the FBI back to Rural King showed a check in the box marked “proceed.”
“They operate off the information that’s provided to them and apparently this time, it slipped through the cracks,” Sloan said. "Given his past and what we knew about him, he shouldn’t have been able to obtain these guns.”
In Indiana, when someone fills out a background check form, it’s sent straight from the gun retailer to the FBI. The FBI uses a system called NICS to run the background check. NICS searches a national and statewide database. Indiana’s database is called IDAC.
According to Indiana State Police Captain Dave Bursten, their system was up to date. When experts with ISP checked, Bursten said Abraman’s background check came back showing multiple felony convictions. Their system also linked both names— Kenan Abraman and Rodney Patterson.
“By and large, our system works properly. The information was there and why it wasn’t found, that’s a question for the FBI,” Bursten said.
The FBI declined to answer any questions about this specific case. A representative in the criminal justice services division said releasing any information about background checks would be a violation of the federal privacy act.
It’s also unclear why the fake social security number entered didn’t raise a red flag, which wouldn’t have matched either name. NICS users can submit any amount or all information provided on the federal firearms background check form.
In this case, investigators believe the employees at Rural King aren’t at fault. Rural King declined to provide comment on the case.
“If somebody is determined to beat the system and is resourceful enough and is willing to tell the right kind of lies, the system can be defeated,” Bursten said.
As a formal federal prosecutor, Mark Stuaan has tried a number of cases where convicted felons have gotten hold of guns. He’s not involved in this case but said he knows human error can exist.
“Even a perfect background check system isn’t going to stop everybody who should not have a gun, from getting a gun,” Stuaan said. He added, “How do we make it so that both those who lawfully possess firearms can do so if they want, and we’ve done as much to make sure those that do not have guns, don’t get them.”
Years in prison
In April, a judge in Delaware County sentenced Kenan Abraman for the attempted murder of Tony Ong.
He’s expected to be in prison until 2047, which would make him 74-years-old by the time he’s released. Right now, he’s being treated in the Indiana Department of Corrections psychiatric wing.
For Tony Ong, the lack of answers is frustrating. “He knew what he was doing was wrong,” Ong said.
After months of treatment to fix his physical wounds, Ong is still undergoing therapy to fix the emotional scars caused by the shooting.
He said while he can’t hate Abraman for what he’s done, he’s hoping someone will be held responsible for letting the convicted criminal pass a background check. He’s asking for a change to make sure no one else slips through the cracks.
“I’m lucky I survived, I am,” Ong said.