The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia announced on Thursday that The National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) has aided the undercover law enforcement effort, dubbed “Operation United Front,” in the indictment of a third person that was involved in narcotics distribution and the illegal possession of weapons.
“Addressing violent crime in Middle Georgia means utilizing every asset at our disposal, including high-level ballistics technology like ATF’s NIBIN,” said U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary.
U.S. District Judge Marc Treadwell sentenced Macon native, Jasper Blackshear, to 10 years, 10 months in prison on June 8th after his guilty plea to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine base.
“Nothing is more important than our collective work with our law enforcement and community partners to reduce violent crime and hold those responsible accountable for their crimes,” U.S. Attorney Leary said.
Forty-three year-old Chadwick Purnwell, co-defendant of Blackshear’s and also of Macon, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on May 3rd after he pleaded guilty to Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.
“This conviction shows how gun violators and drug violators frequently run together. Therefore, operations like United Front are successful in ridding our streets of individuals who harm our communities by peddling guns and drugs. Our neighborhoods are made safer when these criminals are brought to justice,” said Bibb County Sheriff David Davis.
Second co-defendant Jermaine White, 33, of Warner Robins, Georgia, was sentenced to 4 years, 1 month in prison on May 4th after his guilty plea to two felony counts of Criminal Use of a Communication Facility, a third-degree felony.
“It shall be unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally to use any communication facility in committing or in causing or facilitating the commission of any act or acts constituting a felony, (§ 16-13-32.3)” says the Georgia law.
Three more defendants, Devon Futrell, Deonta Lowe, and Logan Nettles, all Macon natives, await sentencing and all face at least 10 years in prison if convicted.
Futrell, 27, is charged with two counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and faces up to ten years’ incarceration on each count.
Lowe, 32, was charged with distribution of methamphetamine, which carries a maximum sentence of twenty years incarceration.
Nettles, 23, was also charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
The charges of all six defendants were initially announced on July 7, 2021.
The covert operation by law authorities made use of data from confidential informants, undercover special operators, and the geo-tracking of bullet shell casings, all of which were compiled into the NIBIN system in order to help identify Blackshear, Purnell, and White as suspects.
“NIBIN is a proven investigative and intelligence tool that can link firearms from multiple crime scenes, allowing law enforcement to quickly disrupt shooting cycles,” the U.S. attorneys’ office said.
The trio was under investigation from May to July 2021, a time during which Purnell sold crack cocaine and nine firearms, including two semi-automatic rifles and a shotgun, to undercover law enforcement agents and confidential informants. The shotgun’s serial number was sawed off.
“The National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) is the only national network that allows for the capture and comparison of ballistic evidence to aid in solving and preventing violent crimes involving firearms,” says the ATF.
In addition to the NIBIN system, ATF’s Crime Gun Intelligence Centers (CGIC) use a program called “eTrace“, which the agency describes as “an internet-based system that allows participating law enforcement agencies to submit firearm traces to the ATF National Tracing Center (NTC).”
“NIBIN is only used for criminal investigations and does not capture or store ballistic information acquired at the point of manufacture, importation, or sale,” says the ATF.
ATF’s CGI Centers support the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Project Guardian, announced in November 2019, and Operation Relentless Pursuit, announced in December 2019.
“Building on the success of past programs like Triggerlock, Project Guardian will strengthen our efforts to reduce gun violence by allowing the federal government and our state and local partners to better target offenders who use guns in crimes and those who try to buy guns illegally,” said then-Attorney General, William P. Barr.
Operation Relentless Pursuit seeks to ensure that no American city is excluded from the peace and security felt by the majority of Americans, while also supporting those who serve and protect in these communities with the resources, training, and equipment they need to stay safe,” said Barr.
NIBIN is currently in use by the Atlanta ATF, Dekalb County Police Department, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s lab in Decatur, the Bibb County Sheriff’s Department in Macon, the Cobb County Police Department in Marietta, the Chatham County Police Department in Savannah, and the Valdosta Police Department.
NIBIN is used by law enforcement in other states as well, including Ohio.
Ohio Governor’s Mike DeWine’s announcement of a $10 million initiative to speed up gun-criminal identifications is a part of Ohio’s Ballistic Testing Initiative that will increase the number of NIBIN units in the state from seven to 16.
“To keep our communities safe, it’s critical that our law enforcement agencies have the right tools to go after the small group of repeat offenders who illegally carry firearms with the sole intent of hurting people,” said Governor DeWine.
“By providing this support, we’re helping our peace officers proactively prevent violence, and we’re also helping law enforcement maintain the staffing levels they need to protect our communities,” said Governor DeWine.
All in all, Governor DeWine will grant some $58 million to law enforcement in the next few months.
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Addison Basurto is a reporter at The Georgia Star and The Star News Network. Follow Addy on Twitter and GETTR. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “National Integrated Ballistic Information Network” by ATF.