Justice Department Expands Operation Legend to Indianapolis

August 14, 2020 Updated: August 14, 2020

The Justice Department on Friday said it had expanded its a law enforcement initiative aimed at driving down violent crime in inner cities to Indianapolis, Indiana.

Over the past few weeks, the department has made several public moves to show it is cracking down on violent crime across the country. It launched Operation Legend, a law enforcement program where federal resources are surged to inner U.S. cities to assist local and state law enforcement officials to tackle violent crime and restore public safety. The program was named after 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was shot and killed while sleeping in his home in Kansas City, Missouri.

The operation began in early July in Kansas City and has since been expanded to eight other cities across the country including Chicago, Albuquerque, St. Louis, and most recently Indianapolis.

Indianapolis has been experiencing a significant increase in violent crime, the department said. Homicides went up by more than 51 percent and non-fatal shootings rose by over 34 percent.

The city has been facing a series of shootings in recent weeks, Rick Synder, the president of the local police union FOP Lodge 86, said in social media posts. Local authorities are investigating a series of deadly shootings in a span of three hours on Wednesday, which has left three people dead. Authorities are also investigating another series of shootings on Thursday and a homicide investigation, Synder wrote. This has pushed the total of homicide cases in the city so far this year to 142. The total of homicide cases in the city in 2019 was 171, according to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

The department said they will send 40 federal investigators to the city for 45 days, while the Department of Homeland Security will commit 17 agents to the operation. These officers will complement the existing task forces that are targeting crimes related to violent gangs, guns, and drug trafficking. Additional funding will also be provided to assist state and local agencies.

“The most basic responsibility of government is to protect the safety of our citizens,” Attorney General William Barr said in a statement. “Today, we have extended Operation Legend to Indianapolis, a city experiencing an increase in violent crime that no resident of that city should have to accept as part of everyday life.”

Snyder said in a social media post that he was “grateful” for the department’s pledge to surge federal resources to the city.

Indianapolis mayor’s office did not immediately respond to our request for comment in reaction to the announcement.

The news of this expansion comes a day after a prosecutor announced that the alleged gunman who fatally shot 4-year-old LeGend had been arrested and charged with second-degree murder. Ryson Ellis, 22, has been accused of firing bullets into a home on June 29 while LeGend was asleep on the apartment’s floor, investigators said.

Barr said the arrest “marks a significant step forward in his case and illustrates the potential of Operation Legend more broadly.”

“The arrest and state charges resulted from cooperation among Kansas City police officers, the FBI, and U.S. Marshals. This development is a model for joint efforts to solve crimes and reduce violence in other cities,” Barr said in a statement.

At the time of its launch, the operation faced resistance from numerous cities as it was unveiled during a time when the Trump administration was facing widespread criticism for sending federal agents to Portland, Oregon, to quell rioting around a federal courthouse.

The administration has sought to differentiate the two operations, saying that the federal deployment to Portland was to protect federal property while Operation Legend is an effort to fight violent crime.

The FBI announced on Friday that as part of the operation they are offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information leading to the identification of a suspect responsible for the murder of De’Shaun Swanson, a 10-year-old boy who was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting at a home in Indianapolis in September 2015.

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