Friday, February 24, 2017

Forty-One VRN Indictments Target Violent Offenders in Pulaski County

LITTLE ROCK—Christopher R. Thyer, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Jeffrey Reed, Resident Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), Larry Jegley, Prosecuting Attorney for the Sixth Judicial District, Diane Upchurch, Special Agent in Charge of the Little Rock Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Kenton Buckner, Chief of Little Rock Police Department (LRPD), and Mike Davis, Chief of North Little Rock Police Department (NLRPD), announced today 41 separate federal cases brought under the Violence Reduction Network (VRN) initiative in recent months.

These VRN cases target some of the most violent offenders in Pulaski County, and highlight law enforcement’s commitment to widespread collaboration between federal and local law enforcement partners in Pulaski County to help reduce violent crime. The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Arkansas has worked with the ATF, LRPD, NLRPD, and Sixth Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to return 41 indictments charging individuals with various gun and drug crimes, with most of the indictments being returned in the past six months. All 41 defendants are convicted felons, and many have examples of violence in their past.

"The individuals targeted in our VRN initiative are among the most dangerous members of their community," Thyer said. "Removing them and their guns from the streets of Pulaski County is a top priority, and makes our community a safer place to live. But know this—while we are pleased to announce these 41 indictments, by no means are the law enforcement officers of this community finished with the work of seeking out and stopping those individuals who unfortunately bring gun violence into everyday life."

The indictments are all part of the VRN initiative, a network Little Rock joined in 2015. The VRN uses a comprehensive approach to reducing violent crime in select communities around the country. Through the VRN, the Justice Department enlists tactical and operational expertise available from its various federal components to assist local police forces in targeted efforts to eliminate the worst criminals from communities. Little Rock, along with West Memphis, will be a part of the VRN through September.

"The pursuit of justice concerning the judicial presentation of 41 defendants through the VRN initiative demonstrates the focus and commitment of the ATF to serve the citizens of the Little Rock and North Little Rock municipalities," Reed said. "The ATF is committed to working with the Little Rock Police Department, the North Little Rock Police Department, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the United States Marshals Service (USMS), and the United States Attorney Office concerning investigations involving violent offenders who illegally possess firearms within Arkansas. The ATF will continue these investigative efforts with our law enforcement partners in a determined fashion to provide the service expected by the citizens of Arkansas. Note that these collaborative efforts are in the pursuit of a safer living environment for the citizens of both Little Rock and North Little Rock, and that the ATF will be unwavering in that mission."

The prior convictions of the 41 defendants include manslaughter, rape, aggravated assault, car-jacking, robbery and aggravated robbery, residential burglary, domestic battery, delivery of controlled substances and possession with intent to deliver controlled substances, simultaneous possession of drugs and firearms, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Forty of the 41 indictments announced today contain various federal gun charges, including being a felon in possession of a firearm or ammunition, possessing a firearm while under a felony information, and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime (see attached list). In addition, several defendants are charged with stand-alone drug crimes. Four of the defendants are still pending arrest, while the remaining 37 are in various stages of prosecution.

"The Little Rock Police Department is proud of our relationships with The US Attorney's Office and all of our federal partners," Chief Buckner said. "We have at least one officer assigned to ATF, FBI, DEA, USMS, and IRS. These relationships are essential to providing public safety in the capitol city."

The indictments primarily stemmed from cases initially investigated by the Little Rock Police Department or the North Little Rock Police Department. Following state arrests in many instances, these cases were then recommended for federal prosecution by the Sixth Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Cases targeted for federal prosecution include those with defendants who have extensive or violent criminal history, or whose present crime is particularly egregious or violent.

Today’s announcement, and the federal and local components’ continued efforts as part the VRN in Little Rock and West Memphis, illustrate the Department of Justice and new administration’s commitment to reducing crime in the nation, as detailed in a series of Executive Orders recently enacted. This commitment to public safety will remain the steadfast mission of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Arkansas, and all law enforcement officers in our community who are sworn to protect and serve.

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