Responding to the recent rash of violent gun crimes in Indianapolis, U.S. Attorney Joseph H. Hogsett held a press conference about the criminal activity.
The gun crimes included Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officer Dwayne “Dewey” Runnels being shot in the line of duty during a routine traffic stop. On that same day, a 7-year-old girl and her uncle were gunned down in their home in Cumberland. Gun violence also resulted in the shooting of Deputy Marshal Stephen Brady in Waterloo, Ind., in the same week.
“Time and time again this year, we’ve seen police officers and innocent civilians put in extreme danger at the hands of convicted felons who never should have possessed the firearms they used in their criminal activity,” Hogsett said. “That is why this office made it a priority in 2011 to target these repeat, violent offenders for federal prosecution whenever they are found to be in possession of firearms.”
Last March, Hogsett started the Violent Crime Initiative (VCI), a comprehensive district-wide strategy to combat drug traffickers and criminals that use and carry firearms in their illegal activities through improved local collaboration and aggressive federal prosecution.
According to Hogsett’s office, since its inception, the VCI has caused a dramatic increase in the number of gun-related charges – from 14 felony possession of a firearm charges in 2010 to 101 thus far in 2011. Major drug trafficking indictments are up more than 100 percent from where they were two years ago. And drug trafficking seizures have increased by more than seven-fold over 2010 numbers.
Of these prosecutions, more than half of them (59) involved defendants in Marion County, many of whom are eligible for or have already received sentences in excess of what they would have faced under state charges alone. In contrast to state law, federal sentencing also includes pre-trial detention and requires that at least 85 percent of a sentence must actually be served, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
“If there is one group of people in Indianapolis that understands the differences between state and federal prosecution, it is convicted felons,” Hogsett said. “And on average in 2011, we’ve been prosecuting more than one defendant a week in Marion County on charges relating to the illegal possession or use of firearms in our community.”
Hogsett pointed to the case of Terre Haute Police Officer Brent Long as an example of how the U.S. Attorney’s Office has worked with state and local law enforcement to bring a greater sense of justice to Hoosier communities.
On July 11, 2011, Officer Long and his K-9 partner, Shadow, entered a residence while serving a warrant on Shaun Seeley for a felony probation violation. Gunfire was heard outside the residence, and after law enforcement officers entered the house, Officer Long was recovered and Seeley, dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound, was identified. Officer Long died as a result of his injuries.
Since then, an extensive investigation into Officer Long’s death has led to the indictment of seven Terre Haute residents. Five individuals were charged with making a material false statement to law enforcement in relation to the events of that day. Two individuals, Scott Griffy and Brad “Pappy” Keller, face charges in connection with their alleged illegal possession and sale of the weapon used in the shooting. All seven are in the process of entering guilty pleas to the charges brought against them.
Hogsett also pointed to the recent sentencing of Jerry Crawford to 15 years in federal prison. Crawford, an Indianapolis resident with an extensive criminal record that includes multiple felonies, was identified by the U.S. Attorney’s Office when he attempted to pawn a firearm. Working with Indianapolis law enforcement, Crawford was arrested and prosecuted for possessing a firearm as a convicted felon and will now spend more than a decade behind bars.
“These prosecutions serve as a powerful warning to those in Indianapolis and across the state who illegally possess firearms or provide them to others in disregard of both the law and common sense,” Hogsett added. “This office will find you, you will be arrested, and we will prosecute you with the full power of federal law.”