Court documents outline 3 attempts by Charlie Tan to get a gun
Syracuse/Pittsford, N.Y. (WHAM) - The teenager who purchased the shotgun and alleged murder weapon for Charlie Tan is now the key witness in his new federal trial. The details are contained in court documents which also contend it took three attempts to purchase the weapon.
Surveillance video from the Cortland Walmart played at the first trial shows Tan at the counter attempting to purchase a Remington 87 pump-action shotgun in 2015. Because he was a Canadian citizen, he was given a waiting period. A second video taken at the same store on the same day shows another young man purchasing the same gun.
The identity of that man - Whitney Knickerbocker - has been known since the murder trial, which ended with the charges being dismissed by the judge. Now 13WHAM News has learned Knickerbocker will testify in this second trial - and we're learning what he might say.
Court papers refer to Knickerbocker as Witness One (W1) and describe him as Tan's friend and teammate in high school in Pittsford. In 2015, Tan was a sophomore at Cornell University acting as a "big brother" and mentor to Knickerbocker who was a freshman pledging at the same fraternity.
Prosecutors say Tan asked his friend to purchase the gun and drove him to Walmart to do so. But Knickerbocker's first attempt to do so was unsuccessful because the address on his driver's license was not current. That's when Tan drove them both to the DMV Office to make the change.
A short time later, Tan and Knickerbocker were back at the Walmart. On his second attempt, Knickerbocker was immediately approved. Court papers say he purchased the gun and two boxes of ammunition. Surveillance video shows a clerk walking the gun out the door and handing it over in the parking lot.
Prosecutors say Tan was waiting in the car. He collected his change, then drove alone to his home in Pittsford. They say later that same day, Tan used the gun to shoot his father to death.
Tan is accused of being involved with the illegal purchase of a gun with the intent to use it to commit murder or manslaughter. There is no indication Knickerbocker knew or suspected how the gun would be used.
However, court papers indicated Knickerbocker lied on the federal form by saying he was purchasing the guns for himself. That alone is enough to be charged with a crime.
Knickerbocker has not been charged and court papers indicate he will be called as a witness which could mean there is a cooperation agreement in place granting him immunity in exchange for his testimony.
Charlie Tan is expected to go to trial this summer.