Archive for Monday, March 17, 2014

Wichita struggles to stop rise in gang violence

March 17, 2014

— The FBI has joined with Wichita police in a bid to target the city’s most violent gang members.

Under the new partnership, an FBI agent works with a detective and officer from the Wichita Police Department’s gang unit to review unsolved homicides and build cases against gang members who have a history of violence, The Wichita Eagle reported. The team also works with the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“They’re targeting the worst of the worst,” police Capt. Scott Heimerman said.

“If you are a gang member and you get caught with a pistol in this town, you are going to go to prison period,” Heimerman said. “If you have a felony conviction, it will be federal prison.”

Even crime victims who are found with guns and are convicted felons will face prosecution.

“I don’t care if you’re a victim or not,” Heimerman said. “If you’re a gang member and you had a gun and you’re a felon, I’m going to charge you.”

Police Chief Norman Williams said the partnership stems from last June, when John Sullivan, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Wichita branch, floated the idea of having an FBI agent work with police in whatever capacity police thought was most needed. FBI spokeswoman Bridget Patton said fighting gang violence is an FBI priority.

She said the FBI is also part of joint task forces in other cities, including Kansas City, Mo.

Williams credited the FBI for the recent arrest of a 27-year-old gang member accused of trying to run over a Wichita police officer in November 2012. Williams said the FBI’s connections and expertise were vital in finding Marquel Dean in Garland, Texas.

Dean avoided capture on outstanding warrants for more than a year. He committed “new crimes,” according to a Sedgwick County District Court document, until he was arrested in Texas. Dean, who spent months on the U.S. marshals’ Top 10 most-wanted list, is being held in Sedgwick County Jail on bonds totaling more than $1.1 million.

The task force is in position to deal “a pretty substantial blow to violent criminal gang activity,” Heimerman said. “This group will go after the most violent, the most active members until the violence ceases.”


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