U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
Southern District of Indiana
Southern District of Indiana
For Immediate Release
September 24, 2012
Joseph H. Hogsett, United States Attorney
Contact: Tim Horty
Hogsett Announces Sentence of Man Who "Straw Purchased" Gun Used to Shoot IMPD Officer
U.S. Attorney says focus remains on protecting law enforcement, prosecuting illegal gun trade
INDIANAPOLIS – Joseph H. Hogsett, the United States Attorney, announced that Tarus E. Blackburn, Jr., age 23, of Indianapolis, was sentenced this afternoon to 12 months in federal prison by District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson. This follows Blackburn's plea of guilty to charges that he made a false statement in the acquisition of a firearm, a criminal act commonly known as
making a "straw purchase." The weapon purchased by Blackburn was then provided to an individual who less than two months later used the weapon to shoot an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer.
"Our policy is quite simple: start with the gun used to commit a violent crime, and then work all the way back to the source," Hogsett said. "You don't have to be the one who pulls the trigger anymore if you are engaging in the illegal trade of guns in this city, you will be held accountable for any crime committed using those weapons."
Blackburn admitted that in October 2011, he purchased a Smith & Wesson .40 caliber firearm, falsely stating that he was purchasing the weapon for himself on Form 4473, which is required paperwork provided by the ATF.
Specifically, ATF Form 4473 requires someone purchasing a firearm to verify that they are the actual buyer of the firearm. The documentation provides a specific warning that a person is in violation of the law if they are purchasing the firearm on behalf of another person.
Blackburn has admitted that his purchase of the weapon was actually on behalf of another individual ("D.M."). Media reports indicate that on December 12, 2011, D.M. used the weapon to shoot IMPD Officer Dwayne Runnels after Officer Runnels performed a traffic stop on the vehicle D.M. was driving. A shootout ensued, and D.M. was killed by return fire. Officer Runnels was hospitalized, but has since recovered from injuries received during the shooting incident.
"Last year, I was able to ride along with Officer Runnels and others in the East District, and I saw first-hand the effect that illegal gun trafficking is having in our at-risk neighborhoods," Hogsett added. "After talking with Officer Runnels the night he was shot, it became clear to me that this was exactly the type of case our Violent Crime Initiative was designed to address."
In the days following the shooting, the U.S. Attorney's Office worked closely with law enforcement partners to launch an investigation into how D.M., widely reported by the media to be a convicted felon, had come to illegally possess a firearm. Investigators successfully traced the firearm that was found in the shooter's hand back to the original point of sale at a federal
firearms dealer located on Pendleton Pike in Indianapolis, where records indicated that Blackburn had purchased the weapon in October 2011.
After being interviewed by law enforcement and questioned as to how a weapon he purchased had come to be used in the December 2011 shooting, Blackburn told law enforcement that he had sold the gun to D.M. shortly after purchasing it, despite knowing that the criminal history of the individual receiving it included felony convictions, and thus that D.M. was not legally permitted to possess a firearm.
This prosecution was the result of a collaborative investigation as part of the U.S. Attorney's Violent Crime Initiative, which included significant assistance from the ATF, as well as the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.
Announced in March of 2011, the Violent Crime Initiative (VCI) represents a districtwide strategy to work with local law enforcement and county prosecutors to combat drug traffickers and criminals that use and carry firearms in their illegal activities. In the first nine months of the initiative, the VCI produced a dramatic increase in the number of gun-related charges brought federally from just 14 felony possession charges in 2010 to 103 last year.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia J. Ridgeway, who prosecuted the case for the government, Blackburn was also ordered to serve two years of supervised release as part of his sentence.