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79th St. slaying leads to fed gun bust

Charge reputed gang members with buying weapons, ammo from soldiers

By Tim Hadac

A federal investigation launched in the wake of a shooting in a Wrightwood storefront a year ago has led to the indictment of nine reputed gang members allegedly tied to three U.S. Army soldiers accused of illegally selling firearms and ammunition.

The dozen men charged are all members of a gang faction based out of the Pocket Town area, located just east of 71st and the Skyway. They had been at a storefront in the 2500 block of West 79th Street on March 25, 2021 when someone opened fire at a birthday party, hitting eight people—one fatally.Screen Shot 2013 03 27 at 11.06.13 PM

The nine charged are Blaise Smith, 29; Rahaeem Johnson, aka Rah, 24; Bryant Larkin, 33; Corey Curtis, 26; Elijah Tillman, 24; Lazarus Greenwood, aka Zarro, 23; Dwight Lowry, aka Ike, 41; Dreshion Parks, 25, all of Chicago; and Terrell Mitchell, 27, of Davenport, Iowa.

The soldiers charged last year are Demarcus Adams, 21; Jarius Brunson, 22; and Brandon Miller, 22, who in 2021 were stationed at the Fort Campbell military installation in Clarksville, Tenn.

“The Justice Department recognizes that fighting violent crime requires approaches tailored to the needs of individual communities,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. Said last week. “But gun violence can be a problem that is too big for any one community, any one city, or any one agency to solve. That is why our approach to disrupting gun violence and keeping guns out of the hands of criminals rests on the kind of coordination you see here today.”

On the morning on March 30, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, IRS-Criminal Investigation and officers from the Chicago Police Department and the Davenport, Iowa, Police Department began arresting those charged in the indictment. Six of those charged were taken into custody immediately, with the remaining three defendants sought by law enforcement.

Federal authorities said the soldiers conspired to purchase and deliver more than 90 illegally obtained firearms to the Chicago area to fuel ongoing violence between rival gang factions.

The indictment further alleges the methods used by co-conspirators to purchase firearms from federally licensed firearms dealers in the Clarksville, Tennessee and Oak Grove, Ken. areas, which included communicating via text messages to coordinate the purchase and delivery of firearms to the Chicago area; providing false information on firearms purchase application forms; and using online apps to facilitate payment for the illegal transfer of firearms.

On one occasion, the indictment alleges that in addition to several firearms available for sale, Brandon Miller had 1,000 rounds of 9mm ammunition available for purchase.

If convicted, the defendants face up to 20 years in prison on one or more of the charged counts.

The announcement was made by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland; U.S. Attorney Mark H. Wildasin for the Middle District of Tennessee; U.S. Attorney John Lausch for the Northern District of Illinois; Special Agent in Charge Mickey French of the ATF Nashville Field Division; Special Agent in Charge Kristen de Tineo of the ATF Chicago Field Division; Karen Wingerd, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of IRS-CI, Charlotte Field Office; and Assistant Director Guy Surian for Investigations and Operations, U.S. Army – Criminal Investigation Division.

This case is being investigated by the ATF-Nashville, Chicago, and Des Moines Divisions; the U.S. Army-CID; the IRS-CI – Charlotte and Chicago Field Offices; the Clarksville, Tenn. Police Department; the Chicago Police Department and the Chicago Crime Gun Intelligence Center; and the Davenport, Iowa Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Josh Kurtzman and Kathryn Risinger are prosecuting the case.

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