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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Middle District of Georgia
For Immediate Release
Peter D. Leary, United States Attorney
Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Gangster Disciples Member Pleads Guilty to Federal Gun Charge

Ballistic Imaging Technology Linked Firearm to Columbus Domestic Violence Investigation

COLUMBUS, Ga. – A confirmed member of the Gangster Disciples faces up to life in prison after he pleaded guilty to a federal gun charge; the firearm was linked to a domestic violence assault through ATF’s National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN).

Megail Thirkield, 33, of Columbus, Georgia, pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon before U.S. District Judge Clay Land on July 18. Thirkield potentially faces a mandatory minimum of 15 years up to a maximum sentence of life in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 26. There is no parole in the federal system.

“Law enforcement efforts in Columbus remain focused on reducing crime and holding the most violent repeat offenders accountable for choosing to illegally arm themselves,” said U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary. “This case demonstrates the strong collaboration between law enforcement at every level in Columbus by taking advantage of available technology like the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) to hold the most violent repeat offenders accountable.”

“ATF’s mission and priority are to deny criminals access to firearms and protect the rights of law-abiding citizens. When offenders illegally possess firearms that can be used against our citizens, our children and our community, ATF takes this very seriously,” said ATF Assistant Special Agent in Charge Beau Kolodka.

“Guns, gangs and acts of violence create a combination that yields a bad outcome,” said Muscogee County Sheriff Greg Countryman. “The Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office will continue to work hand-in-hand with our federal partners to alleviate all threats that may impose any type of harm to the citizens of our county. We will continue to use the proven scientific technology of NIBIN as an investigative tool for crimes involving guns.”

According to court documents, a Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office investigator observed Thirkield—who was wanted on domestic violence charges—walking in the middle of Colorado Street in Columbus at approximately 12:30 p.m. on June 9, 2022. Multiple arrest warrants had been issued for Thirkield related to several domestic violence assaults between Feb. 2022 and May 2022. Police reports detail Thirkield stalking and harassing the same victim; he allegedly threatened the victim while brandishing a firearm—including pointing the weapon at her head and firing several shots into the air—and also allegedly violently attacked the victim, sometimes in the presence of the victim’s children.

While awaiting backup, the investigator watched Thirkield enter a house. The owner consented to law enforcement entering the residence where they found Thirkield hiding under a pile of clothes in a back bedroom. Thirkield was taken into custody in possession of a semi-automatic Glock pistol with 20 rounds of ammunition. The firearm was linked to the domestic violence incidents through NIBIN.

Thirkield is a confirmed member of the Gangster Disciples with a lengthy criminal history to include multiple felony drug distribution convictions, theft by receiving stolen property and illegal possession of a firearm in Muscogee County, Georgia, Superior Court. It is a federal crime for a convicted felon to possess a firearm.

This case is being prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state, and local Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Program, the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

NIBIN, run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), is the only interstate automated ballistic imaging network in the United States, making it possible for local law enforcement to search against evidence from across the country, improving the outcomes of criminal investigations. The NIBIN technology is considered a valuable tool by law enforcement in the effort to reduce gun crimes across the Middle District of Georgia.

The case was investigated by the Muscogee Co. Sheriff’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Williams is prosecuting the case for the government.

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