Thursday, March 08, 2001

Sweep seizes hundreds of guns

Some weapons linked to crimes

The Associated Press

        BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Federal agents raided gun shops and homes in Indiana and Kentucky on Wednesday, seizing hundreds of weapons and arresting 16 people as part of an 18-month investigation into illegal firearms sales.

        About 500 guns were seized — including one used in the shooting of a police officer in Indiana, authorities said. In all, 1,000 firearms were either seized or bought by undercover agents during the investigation, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms announced at a news conference Wednesday.

        Some of the guns have been linked to robberies in California, Illinois and Tennessee, said Karl Stankovic, ATF agent in charge of the Louisville office. Authorities were unable to provide more details about the weapon used in the Indiana shooting.

        One of the four gun shops raided Wednesday was Casey's Pawn Shop in Evansville, Ind., which the ATF earlier alleged had sold a handgun to Robert Pickett of Evansville. Mr. Pickett was wounded by Secret Service agents Feb. 7 after he fired two shots outside the White House.

        A Casey's Pawn Shop in Henderson was also raided Wednesday, and four employees and one former employee at the two stores was arrested, authorities said.

        Mr. Stankovic said that the ATF was investigating Casey's when the White House shooting occurred and that illegal gun sales continued after the shooting.

        Other shops raided included 431 Pawn in Central City and Cole's Gun Shop in Sebree.

        Weapons seized include handguns with scratched-out serial numbers, sawed-off shotguns and machine guns.

        “This case is about the illegal ways that guns get to our streets and become available to criminals,” Mr. Stankovic said. “It is about people who are prohibited by law, from owning or possessing guns, and who not only illegally have guns, but are actively involved in selling them.”

        Steven S. Reed, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky, said illegal sale of firearms was “inexcusable” and said seizing them will prevent them from being used by gang members or drug dealers.

        Undercover agents bought many of the guns at flea markets, gun shows, gun shops and residences, authorities said.

        The investigation was triggered by discrepancies in gun shop records and tips from the public and law enforcement agencies, Mr. Stankovic said.


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