Memphis, TN – United States Attorney D. Michael Dunavant announced today that Operation LeGend, a sustained, systematic and coordinated law enforcement initiative in which federal law enforcement agencies work in conjunction with state and local law enforcement officials to fight violent crime, will be expanding into the City of Memphis.
Operation LeGend is named in honor of four-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was shot and killed while he slept early in the morning of June 29 in Kansas City. The Operation was first launched on July 8 in Kansas City, MO., and expanded on July 22, 2020, to Chicago and Albuquerque, and then to Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee on July 29, 2020. Today, the expansion of Operation LeGend was announced in the cities of Memphis and St. Louis.
“The most basic responsibility of government is to protect the safety of our citizens,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. “Today, we have extended Operation Legend to Memphis and St. Louis, two cities experiencing increases in violent crime that no resident of those cities should have to accept as part of everyday life. For decades, the Department of Justice has achieved significant success when utilizing our anti-violent crime task forces and federal law enforcement agents to enforce federal law and assist American cities that are experiencing upticks in violent crime. The Department of Justice’s assets will supplement local law enforcement efforts, as we work together to take the shooters and chronic violent criminals off of our streets.”
As part of Operation LeGend, Attorney General Barr directed the ATF, FBI, DEA, and U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) to significantly increase resources into Memphis and St. Louis in the coming weeks to help state and local officials fight high levels of violent crime, particularly gun violence.
Memphis is currently experiencing a significant increase in violent crime, with homicides spiking up more than 49%, reported gun crime up 23%, and aggravated assault shootings up over 19% compared to 2019.
In the City of Memphis, the Department of Justice will supplement state and local law enforcement agencies by deploying a total of 40 federal investigators, including 16 federal investigators to Memphis on temporary assignment for 90 days, followed by 24 permanent agent assignments from the FBI, DEA, ATF, and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Under the leadership of Michael Dunavant, United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, these investigators will complement the work already underway by existing joint federal, state and local task forces within the framework of the Multi-Agency Gang Unit (MGU), focused on combatting violent gangs, gun crime, and drug trafficking organizations.
The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) will make available $200,000 to support Operation LeGend’s violent crime reduction efforts in Memphis, in addition to the prior BJA grant funding award of $1.4 million to Shelby County to provide manpower, technology, equipment, and support for the sustained efforts of the Operation LeGend Task Force, including overtime funding for the Multi-Agency Gang Unit (MGU) and partner agency officers; a prosecutor for the Shelby County District Attorney General’s Office to handle operation arrests vertically through the state criminal justice system to ensure that arrests are followed by strategic prosecution; vehicles for MGU operations; and technological solutions to enhance investigation and prosecution of violent offenders. The COPS Office has also previously made approximately $9.8 million available to the Memphis Police Department to fund the hiring of 50 officers.
The Department has also provided assistance to Memphis through the Joint Law Enforcement Operations (JLEO) fund to assist with overtime reimbursement of local law enforcement serving as federal task force officers with FBI, ATF, DEA, and the U.S. Marshals Service. Each Operation LeGend city will receive $100,000 from ATF to help local agencies defray costs associated with installing or maintaining shot detection technology.
During the press conference on Thursday to announce the expansion of Operation LeGend to Memphis, the following additional announcements were made:
• United States Marshal Tyreece Miller announced the results from Phase 1 of Operation Relentless Pursuit fugitive apprehension effort led by the USMS from January 13 through April 3, 2020, which included the arrests of 434 individuals on outstanding warrants, including 24 wanted for homicide, 151 for assault or robbery, 75 wanted for sexual offenses, and 61 identified gang members. Seized during this time period were ninety (90) firearms; 20.71 kilograms of narcotics; and approximately $51,000 in U.S. currency.
• Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich and U.S. Attorney Michael Dunavant announced that the BJA has awarded a grant to the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office in the total amount of $400,000 to fund two (2) Special Assistant United States Attorneys (SAUSAs) for a period of up to 3 years to reduce violent crime as part of the Project Guardian Initiative. The Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs) hired under this grant will be full-time, cross-designated prosecutors assigned to the local United States Attorney’s Office (USAO). These cross-designated prosecutors will maintain an active violent crimes reduction caseload in federal court, while also helping to promote higher quality investigations, improved training, and better communication with state and local law enforcement agencies regarding the investigation and prosecution of firearms offenses under the Project Guardian Initiative.
• FBI Special Agent in Charge Doug Korneski, along with Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings announced that as part of the initiative, a reward of up to $25,000 will be made available for information leading to the successful identification and prosecution of the person(s) responsible for the unsolved shooting deaths of Ashlynn Luckett, age 6, and her uncle, Lequan Boyd, age 16, in a drive-by shooting incident on January 20 of this year while they were inside a home in the 6800 block of Kirby Mills Cove in the Hickory Hill neighborhood of Memphis. On April 28, 2020, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced a $20,000 award in the same case. Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI Memphis Field Office at (901)747-4300, the FBI tip line at 1-800-CALL-FBI, or the Memphis Police Department CrimeStoppers Tip Hotline at 901-528-CASH (2274). You can also report information online at tips.fbi.gov, or contact your local FBI office.
U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant said, “Operation LeGend builds on the collaborative success of Operation Relentless Pursuit, and provides even more federal agency resources and grant funding to help us in our collective fight against violent crime in Memphis. As violent gun crime and homicide spike up, we must meet that threat with a significant surge of law enforcement resources, and Operation LeGend comes at a critical time in our city. I am appreciative to Attorney General Barr for deploying these temporary and permanent federal agent assignments to Memphis, and I look forward to working with all of our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to attack the real violent crime drivers in in our community: gangs, guns, and drugs.”
“FBI Memphis is eager to continue our ongoing collaborative efforts with law enforcement partners to reduce violent crime in our neighborhoods as a part of Operation LeGend,” said Special Agent in Charge Douglas M. Korneski of the Memphis Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “Local, State and Federal Law Enforcement along with our community partners are one team in this sustained, systematic and coordinated initiative to target the violence in our communities.”
“Operation LeGend is an operation that is consistent with our mission of apprehending dangerous individuals. The United States Marshals Service stands with the citizens of Memphis and their desire for safer neighborhoods for them and their children, said U.S. Marshal Tyreece Miller.
“We appreciate the continued efforts of our federal partners in this expansion of Operation LeGend,” said Mike Rallings, Director, Memphis Police Department.
Amy Weirich, Shelby County District Attorney General said: “In the midst of a public health crisis, we are dealing with a public safety crisis. This help from our federal partners
will mean justice for more families devastated by all of this violence. For that I am grateful. But for lasting change, we need the community to do more. We need a coordinated community reaction to the disturbing number of murders—to the number of children we have buried. We need everyone to do their part to combat the growing number among us who embrace violent behavior.”