NEW YORK—Standing flanked by two tables filled with guns, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly announced the largest seizure of illegal guns in New York City history.
“Thank God these guns are off the streets, but once again, it is just a tiny sample. We have to keep up the battle to make it dangerous for people to carry guns,” Bloomberg said.
The tables featured a sample of the 254 guns one undercover Firearms Investigation Unit detective purchased over the span of 10 months, which led to 19 people being indictments. The guns were smuggled from North and South Carolina by a smuggling ring that used low-cost Chinatown buses as a method of transportation.
The Chinatown buses do not require identification, unlike Greyhound, and are roughly half price. The guns were carried in luggage, which was never checked, and Kelly said as many as 14 guns were transported in a given trip. Kelly said nearly every gun sold to the undercover detective came fully loaded.
“Perhaps the two most disturbing aspects of the gun trafficking operation was the simplicity of the business model and the complete indifference of the gun supplier to the mayhem their actions would cause here in New York City,” Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan said from Police Headquarters on Monday. “Their marketing strategy was buy low, sell high, and keep a low profile.”
Walter Walker, 29, of Sanford, N.C., and Earl Campbell, 24, of Rock Hill, S.C., were among the men charged with running the ring. Walker is alleged to have purchased guns in his home state to sell in New York, where he knew he could get a higher price for the weapons.
A rap studio at 1991 Atlantic Ave. in Ocean Hill Brooklyn run by Matthew Best, 26, was the site of at least 11 sales, according to the indictments.
Kelly said Best, an aspiring rapper, posted photos of himself with the guns and large sums of cash on Instagram. In a video posted on YouTube, Best boasted, “I’m packing more guns than the Air Force.”
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Best was arrested in the sting and was charged with one count of conspiracy in the fourth degree.
At the end of July the mayor spoke about the need for tougher national gun laws, citing South Carolina and North Carolina as being the second and third most common states respectively supplying guns found in New York City.
The relaxed gun laws in the Carolinas makes it easier for people to purchase multiple guns using straw buyers (people who are not buying for themselves) and transport them to New York City where they can get a much higher premium for them.
Bloomberg also used the opportunity to express his support for the policy of stop and frisk, which has come under fire in recent years. On Thursday, City Council is expected to override the mayor’s veto on the two bills, which will provide greater oversight of the NYPD and provide an avenue to those who feel they have been racially profiled to sue.
Kelly said Campbell discussed the risk of being stopped by the NYPD in Brownsville, Brooklyn. “I can’t take them [guns] … to my house, to my side of town cause I’m, umm, I’m in Brownsville. So we go like, we got like umm, uh, whatchamacallit, stop and frisk,” Campbell said, according to a transcript read by Kelly at the press conference.
The city lost a landmark court case on Aug. 12, in which a federal judge ruled stop and frisk was unconstitutional. The judge ordered a federal monitor of stop-and-frisk reform, and suggested a pilot program with officers wearing cameras be started.
On Monday, Kelly did not lash out against the use of cameras, but said there were many unanswered questions about how to implement them.