For Immediate Release
Project Guardian: 118 Defendants Charged Federally in 2019 to Reduce Violence in Louisville
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – United States Attorney Russell Coleman, surrounded by federal and local law enforcement partners, announced more than 100 felony offenders possessing firearms have been charged so-far in 2019 as part of the ongoing Project Guardian effort to fight back against the violent crime plaguing Metro Louisville.
This round of indictments brings the total number of defendants charged under the initiative to 223. During calendar year 2019 there have been 118 defendants charged, in calendar year 2018 there were 105 defendants charged in Louisville as part of the Project Guardian program. We have increased gun prosecutions 67 percent across the western district of Kentucky from fiscal year 2017 to fiscal year 2019.
The defendants charged this year are a result of the ongoing partnership between federal prosecutors and their counterparts from Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine’s Office who work hand-in-hand with the Louisville Metro Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms (ATF), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The combined effort is a key component of the Department of Justice’s Project Guardian initiative - which targets the area’s most violent offenders.
“The violent crime our city has suffered over the last few years cannot stand. But for too long in law enforcement, we’ve allowed our greatest limiting factor to be what it says on our badge,” said U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman. “Through Project Guardian and under the leadership of our federal, state, and local partners here in Louisville, we are true partners in tackling this threat to our families and our kids.”
“ATF’s core mission to reduce violent crime and enforce federal firearms laws is achieved each day through the strength of our partnerships with local and state law enforcement,” stated Acting Special Agent in Charge Tommy Estevan of ATF’s Louisville Division. “Already, Project Guardian is building on these relationships and ATF’s gun crime gun intelligence to effectively disrupt the shooting cycles and arrest those who ‘lie and buy’ firearms. These strategies are reducing the access of illegally obtained firearms and helping to make our communities safer for everyone.”
Defendants charged this year have previously been found guilty of numerous crimes including: burglary, kidnapping, narcotics trafficking, manufacturing methamphetamine, theft of identity without consent, assault 4th degree domestic violence, robbery, escape, fleeing/evading police, wanton endangerment, among other charges.
Successful prosecutions this year included, Marcus Bishop Jr., 22, of Louisville was sentenced to 15-years in federal prison, where there is no parole. Bishop was federally convicted of use of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and three counts of possession with intent to distribute heroin.
Jamar Garrison, 33, of Louisville, Kentucky, was sentenced this year to 20 years of federal imprisonment followed by 6 years of supervised release for possession of heroin with the intent to distribute, and possession of a handgun by a convicted felon. Garrison is a 27 time convicted felon with prior convictions for drug trafficking, robbery, felony assault, identity theft, wanton endangerment, wanton endangerment of a police officer, felony fleeing and evading, and assorted other felony and misdemeanor crimes.
As gang-related violence escalated in the summer months federal law enforcement ushered in a new level of collaboration as the United States Marshals Service (USMS), Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) conducted Operation Iron Grip – a two week series of raids from July 22 to August 2, in an effort to reduce violent crime in Louisville. The raids led to more than 50 arrests and 13 firearms seized.
Following the raids the United States Attorney’s Office working with expertise from former LMPD Maj. Billy Hibbs and real-time crime data, erected eight billboards and five bus shelters with a strong message calling for residents to report felons with firearms in an effort to “stop gun violence.” In an addition to a plea, the billboards offered hope to residents and a phone number tip line.
If convicted at trial, the maximum sentence for unlawfully possessing a firearm is no more than ten years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release. If that firearm is possessed or used in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, a defendant faces a mandatory minimum five years in prison in addition to the sentence received for the underlying charges, and could receive up to life in prison. Some of the 118 defendants qualify as Armed Career Criminals, facing a mandatory 15 year sentence, or repeat drug traffickers, facing a mandatory 15 years sentence and, in some cases, a mandatory 25 year sentence.
These cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Joe Ansari, Ann Marie Blaylock, Robert Bonar, Nute Bonner, Bryan Calhoun, Tom Dyke, Larry Fentress, Marisa Ford, Alicia Gomez, Amanda Gregory, Lettricea Jefferson-Webb, Joshua Judd, Corrine Keel, Jo Lawless, Erin McKenzie, Spencer McKiness, Randy Ream, Mac Shannon, Amy Sullivan, Christopher Tieke, David Weiser, Stephanie Zimdahl and Special Assistant United States Attorneys Ebert Haegele and Elizabeth Jones Brown with assistance from Laura Stinson, Western District of Kentucky Grand Jury Coordinator. The cases are being investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Louisville Metro Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and with significant collaboration with Tom Wine and the Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.
Project Guardian is a nationwide program launched in November 2019 by Attorney General William Barr as a complementary effort to the Project Safe Neighborhoods Program (PSN). Project Guardian uses existing gun laws to comprehensively attack gun violence through the aggressive enforcement of existing laws in an effort to incapacitate the most dangerous and violent offenders.
Project Guardian’s implementation is based on five principles:
- Coordinated Prosecution. Federal prosecutors and law enforcement will coordinate with state, local, and tribal law enforcement and prosecutors to consider potential federal prosecution for new cases involving a defendant who: a) was arrested in possession of a firearm; b) is believed to have used a firearm in committing a crime of violence or drug trafficking crime prosecutable in federal court; or c) is suspected of actively committing violent crime(s) in the community on behalf of a criminal organization.
- Enforcing the Background Check System. United States Attorneys, in consultation with the Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in their district, will create new, or review existing, guidelines for intake and prosecution of federal cases involving false statements (including lie-and-try, lie-and-buy, and straw purchasers) made during the acquisition or attempted acquisition of firearms from Federal Firearms Licensees. Particular emphasis is placed on individuals convicted of violent felonies or misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence, individuals subject to protective orders, and individuals who are fugitives where the underlying offense is a felony or misdemeanor crime of domestic violence; individuals suspected of involvement in criminal organizations or of providing firearms to criminal organizations; and individuals involved in repeat denials.
- Improved Information Sharing. On a regular basis, and as often as practicable given current technical limitations, ATF will provide to state law enforcement fusion centers a report listing individuals for whom the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has issued denials, including the basis for the denial, so that state and local law enforcement can take appropriate steps under their laws.
- Coordinated Response to Mental Health Denials. Each United States Attorney will ensure that whenever there is federal case information regarding individuals who are prohibited from possessing a firearm under the mental health prohibition, such information continues to be entered timely and accurately into the United States Attorneys’ Offices’ case-management system for prompt submission to NICS. ATF should engage in additional outreach to state and local law enforcement on how to use this denial information to better assure public safety. Additionally, United States Attorneys will consult with relevant district stakeholders to assess feasibility of adopting disruption of early engagement programs to address mental-health-prohibited individuals who attempt to acquire a firearm. United States Attorneys should consider, when appropriate, recommending court-ordered mental health treatment for any sentences issued to individuals prohibited based on mental health.
- Crime Gun Intelligence Coordination. Federal, state, local, and tribal prosecutors and law enforcement will work together to ensure effective use of the ATF’s Crime Gun Intelligence Centers (CGICs), and all related resources, to maximize the use of modern intelligence tools and technology. These tools can greatly enhance the speed and effectiveness in identifying trigger-pullers and finding their guns, but the success depends in large part on state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners sharing ballistic evidence and firearm recovery data with the ATF. Federal law enforcement represents only about 15 percent of all law enforcement resources nationwide. Therefore, partnerships with state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the communities they serve are critical to addressing gun crime. The Department recognizes that sharing information with our state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners at every level will enhance public safety, and provide a greater depth of resources available to address gun crime on a national level.
For more information on Project Guardian, see the Attorney General’s memorandum at: https://www.justice.gov/ag/project-guardian-memo-2019/download.
The indictment of a person by a Grand Jury is an accusation only and that person is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.