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Feds working with Tuscaloosa authorities to get illegal guns, violent criminals off the streets

Published: May. 12, 2022 at 10:44 PM CDT
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WBRC) - A crackdown on violent crime in Tuscaloosa with help from the federal government. The feds are working with local and state law enforcement to get illegal guns off the streets.

Five people were shot earlier this week and several people injured at Hay Court apartments in Tuscaloosa. These shootings are a part of a recent wave of violence that’s plaguing the city.

“We’ve seen an increase in the purchase of firearms illegally in Tuscaloosa and seeing those guns fall into the hands of prohibited person and felons who are using them both in Tuscaloosa, in Alabama and even up the east coast,” U.S. Attorney Prim Escalona with the Northern District of Alabama said.

Federal law enforcement working with state and local police are now stepping up efforts to try and get those illegal guns off the streets. The U.S. Attorney’s office also sending prosecutors to Tuscaloosa on a regular basis to see what cases they can help with.

“Particularly with firearms offense that we may be able to get more federal time at our level than they are able to get on a state level,” Escalona said.

A recent two-day operation by ATF and Tuscaloosa Police led to 35 arrests. Escalona says law enforcement can turn up the heat on criminals, but they also need the community’s help.

“My office tries to work with community organizations to do prevention and reentry and really kind of come in, once you use enforcement to take out of the violent elements to come in put in those prevention resources and that help for communities so that they can build a safer stronger community,” Escalona said.

In addition to the 35 arrests, a federal grand jury indicted four men on firearm offenses.

Escalona wants criminals to know, the feds are watching, and they’ll do everything in their power to get violent criminals off the streets.

You can read more on the effort below from the U.S. Attorney’s office:

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), along with state and local law enforcement, have increased their focus on prosecuting violent crime in Tuscaloosa. The initiative was made possible, in part, by focusing on crimes that drive the violence. U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona and ATF Special Agent in Charge Mickey French made the announcement.

“These efforts signify what can be accomplished when federal, state, and local law enforcement partners work together and combine every resource available to combat violent crime,” U.S. Attorney Escalona said. “But our work is not done. We expect additional prosecutions in the near future as we continue to focus on the scourge of violent crime. We are committed to working with our state and local partners in Tuscaloosa to make our communities safer.”

“The individuals who knowingly and unlawfully possess firearms, distribute narcotics, and use illegal substances while possessing firearms are a huge concern for law enforcement,” SAC French said. “The ATF works collaboratively with our law enforcement partners to swiftly remove violent criminals from the streets. The ATF’s primary mission is to combat violent crime in our communities, and we will work tirelessly to keep the communities that we serve safe.”

In April 2022, a federal grand jury indicted multiple defendants with firearm offenses, including:

Stanley Darnelius Wilder, 26, Tuscaloosa, was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. Wilder illegally possessed a Diamondback 9mm pistol.

Antawn Devonte Marshall, 25, Eutaw, was charged with two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Marshall illegally possessed a Sig Sauer 9mm pistol, approximately 29 rounds of Wolf 7.6x39mm ammunition and a Smith & Wesson 9mm pistol.

Johnny Dewayne Wells, 31, Tuscaloosa, was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. Wells illegally possessed a Cobra .380 caliber pistol.

Charles Anthony Leatherwood, Jr., 20, Tuscaloosa, was charged with possession of a stolen firearm and with being an unlawful and addicted user of a controlled substance in possession of a firearm. Leatherwood received a stolen Glock .40 caliber pistol.

On April 28, 2022, Chief U.S. District Court Judge L. Scott Coogler sentenced Donovan Logan Crawley, 32, of Tuscaloosa, to 15 years in prison for illegal possession of a firearm. Crawley pleaded guilty in December 2021 to the charge. Crawley is prohibited from having a firearm because of multiple prior felony convictions.

In addition to the above cases, ATF, along with the Tuscaloosa Police Department, partnered in a two-day operation focused on reducing violent crime in Tuscaloosa. The operation resulted in the arrest of 35 individuals. ATF Special Agents and Task Force Officers arrested Devante Deshaun Stewart for a recent federal indictment alleging possession of two firearms after having been convicted of a felony. Tuscaloosa officers arrested individuals for a broad variety of offenses, including narcotics possession, pistol possession without a permit, distribution of narcotics, assault, outstanding warrants for failing to appear in court, illegal possession of pistols after convictions for certain state offenses, DUI, and leaving the scene of a crash, among other charges. Officers recovered a Jaguar automobile that had been stolen from the Birmingham area. Additionally, local narcotics investigators executed two narcotics search warrants during the operation. Officers also seized nine firearms from individuals who did not have pistol permits or were barred from possessing them because of prior convictions for certain felonies.

An indictment contains only charges. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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