For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney DeVillers Announces Federal Firearm Prosecution ‘Hot Zones’
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Today, United States Attorney David M. DeVillers announced a surge in enforcement to address gun crimes in two Columbus neighborhoods.
As part of the “hot zone” firearms initiative, federal and local law enforcement agencies and prosecuting authorities will jointly identify dangerous offenders for federal prosecution in the Hilltop and Linden neighborhoods.
According to local crime statistics, 20 homicides were committed from January to mid-September 2020 in Columbus Division of Police zone 3, which includes the Hilltop. There were 11 homicides during that time in precinct 10 alone. Precinct 10 makes up a quarter of zone 3 and is located south of Broad Street, straddling I-270. The Hilltop police zone reported 35 non-fatal shootings this summer.
Columbus police zone 4 encompasses Linden. During the first eight and a half months of 2020, 24 homicides were committed in zone 4. There were 36 non-fatal shootings in zone 4 during summer 2020.
Linden precincts 2 and 5, located along Cleveland Ave. east of I-71 and north of I-670, accounted for 23 of the zone’s 24 homicides and 30 of the zone’s 36 non-fatal shootings.
City wide, the Columbus Division of Police seized more than 1,500 illegal firearms via search warrants and misdemeanor and felony investigations from January through September 2020. In September alone, 244 firearms were seized via the same means.
Under federal law, it is illegal to possess a firearm if you fall into one of nine prohibited categories, including being a felon, convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense or under a court authorized restraining order. These crimes can be punished by up to 10 years in federal prison.
Further, it is unlawful to possess a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense or violent crime. Defendants convicted of these crimes face a mandatory minimum of five years and up to life in prison.
DeVillers announced he is shifting resources within his office in order to handle the anticipated increase in federal firearms prosecutions. He plans to pivot some Assistant United States Attorneys from other types of cases to handle violent crime.
City and county prosecutors are also dedicating resources through Special Assistant United States Attorneys who will prosecute at the federal level.
Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien has assigned Assistant County Prosecutors James Lowe and Jason Manning, who are current Special Assistant United States Attorneys (SAUSA), to prosecute federal firearms offenses and has committed Assistant County Prosecutors John Gripshover and Amy Van Culin, to be designated SAUSAs.
Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein has dedicated current SASUAs Melanie Tobias and Joe Gibson to prosecute federal firearms offenses.
David M. DeVillers, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Roland Herndon, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); Columbus Police Chief Thomas Quinlan; Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien and Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein announced the initiative today.