Today, the Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney Trent Shores announced charges against more than 14,200 defendants with firearms-related crimes during Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, despite the challenges of COVID 19 and its impact on the criminal justice process. These cases have been a Department priority since November 2019 when Attorney General William P. Barr announced his commitment to investigating, prosecuting, and combatting gun crimes as a critical part of the Department’s anti-violent crime strategy. These firearms-related charges are the result of the critical law enforcement partnership between United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, led by Acting Director Regina Lombardo, who has made firearms-related investigations a priority.
“The number one priority of government is to keep its citizens safe,” said Attorney General Barr. “By preventing firearms from falling into the hands of individuals who are prohibited from having them, we can stop violent crime before it happens. Violating federal firearms laws is a serious crime and offenders face serious consequences. The Department of Justice is committed to investigating and prosecuting individuals who illegally buy, sell, use, or possess firearms. Reducing gun violence requires a coordinated effort, and we could not have charged more than 14,000 individuals with firearms-related crimes without the hard work of the dedicated law enforcement professionals at the ATF, our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country, and especially all of our state and local law enforcement partners.”
“When we prosecute a person for illegally possessing a gun, we are often preventing a violent crime from occurring. That’s a victory for every Oklahoman and our business community,” said U.S. Attorney Trent Shores. “This past year my prosecutors charged over 100 defendants with firearms-related crimes in the Northern District of Oklahoma. These defendants included felons, domestic abusers, unlawful immigrants, and drug abusers who illegally possessed firearms and ammo. Moving forward, as part of our 2150 Initiative, we are focusing our efforts on criminals who use guns during crimes, individuals who lie on firearms transaction forms, and straw purchasers who acquire firearms for prohibited persons.”
Persons illegally possessing firearms not only threaten the public safety, but also threaten the officers who encounter them. At a press conference in September, U.S. Attorney Shores, ATF Assistant Director of Field Operations Thomas Chittum, Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin, and Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum announced the 2150 Initiative, which aims to hold accountable prohibited persons who possess firearms and those who help them acquire firearms. The initiative was named in honor of Tulsa Police Sergeant Craig Johnson, who was shot and killed during a traffic stop by a multi-convicted felon who possessed a handgun. Also critically wounded in the June traffic stop was Officer Aurash Zarkeshan, who continues to recover from his injuries. At the press conference, U.S. Attorney Shores also announced charges filed against defendant Jakob Garland who allegedly traded the gun to the shooter in exchange for heroin.
In a separate case, defendant Jonathan David Kelley was charged in September with being a felon in possession of a firearm and with being a drug user (methamphetamine) in possession of a firearm. The charges stemmed from an incident where Broken Arrow Police Officers encountered the defendant allegedly disoriented and waving around a gun in public. The defendant also allegedly pointed the gun at two civilians earlier in the day. According to the affidavit, Kelley refused the officers’ commands to drop the firearm and continued walking away, cycling the firearm and telling officers he “had a round in the chamber.” Kelley also pointed his gun in the direction of an officer who arrived during the incident. Officers were eventually able to apprehend and arrest the defendant safely and collect the Glock 17 pistol with a round in the chamber. In a separate incident involving Kelley and the Tulsa Police Department, officers answered a domestic violence call on Aug. 29, 2020, where the defendant allegedly made threats through the door to officers and walked around with a gun, working the slide to unload and load rounds.
In FY2021, the U.S. Attorney’s Office continues to charge defendants with firearms-related crimes. So far, 11 additional defendants have been charged. A second grand jury will convene the week of Oct. 19-23.
“Protecting the public from violent crime involving firearms is at the core of ATF’s mission,” commented ATF Acting Director Regina Lombardo. “Every day the men and women of ATF pursue and investigate those who use firearms to commit violent crimes in our communities, many of whom are prohibited from possessing firearms from previous convictions. ATF, in collaboration with the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the nation, is committed to bringing these offenders to justice for their egregious and violent criminal acts.”
Under federal law, it is illegal to possess a firearm if you fall into one of nine prohibited categories, including being a felon, illegal alien, or unlawful user of a controlled substance. Further, it is unlawful to possess a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense or violent crime. It is also illegal to purchase – or even to attempt to illegally purchase – firearms if the buyer is a prohibited person or illegally purchasing a firearm on behalf of others. Lying on ATF Form 4473, which is used to lawfully purchase a firearm, is also a federal offense. The Department is committed to prosecuting these firearms offenses as well as using all modern technologies available to law enforcement such as the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, known as NIBIN, to promote gun crime intelligence. Keeping illegal firearms out of the hands of violent criminals will continue to be a priority of the Department of Justice and we will use all appropriate, available means to keep the law abiding people of this country safe from gun crime.
For more information on the lawful purchasing of firearms, please see: https://www.atf.gov/qa-category/atf-form-4473