Law enforcement officials announced the largest single seizure of firearms in New York City's history today, as well as the arrest of 19 people who were allegedly involved in smuggling the weapons from North and South Carolina by way of cheap Chinatown buses. At a press conference, Mayor Bloomberg was quick to note that the investigation, which netted 254 guns, was successful because of New York's tough gun laws, the undercover officer involved, and "smart, proactive policing…that includes stop, question, and frisk."
Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly made the link to stop-and-frisk because of a conversation between two of the defendants picked up by the Manhattan DA's wiretaps. Earl Campbell, one of the men who allegedly ferried weapons from South Carolina by Chinatown bus, refused to leave the bus drop off point at Grand and Chrystie Streets with his payload for fear of being stopped by police.
"I can't leave until you come cause I can't take them…to my house, to my side of town cause I'm umm, I'm in Brownsville," Campbell allegedly told his accomplice. "So we got like, we got like umm, uh, whatchamacalit, stop and frisk."
Mayor Bloomberg noted, "Stop, question, and frisk…has taken some 8,000 guns off the streets in the past decade," without elaborating that the tactic's overall success rate for retrieving weapons is 0.1%. Most of those guns were found outside of stop-and-frisk hot spots such as Brownsville.
In 2011, police recovered 780 after making 684,330 stops in New York City, while this year-long investigation yielded 254 guns. Ninety percent of all guns used in crimes in New York City come from out of state. The top offender is Virginia, followed by North Carolina and South Carolina.
Bridget Brennan, the Special Narcotics Prosecutor, said that the gun-running scheme was discovered in the course of a drug investigation. Authorities allege that the two gun-running outfits, one from South Carolina, the other from North Carolina, were united in their middleman from Brooklyn, Omole Adedji.
According to a criminal complaint, Adedji would arrange for North Carolina resident Walter Walker to sell the guns at a friend's "rap studio" on Atlantic Avenue in Ocean Hill; the undercover officer bought 116 guns for $82,000 from Walker over the course of fourteen different meetings. Authorities say Walker, who began traveling to New York by Chinatown bus and later by car, also made the largest sale of the bust: 14 guns for $9,700.
Campbell, Adedji's South Carolina connection, allegedly sold 90 guns to the undercover officer for nearly $75,000.
The 254 seized guns, including several assault weapons and one fully automatic Cobray 9mm machine gun with a 30-round magazine, came from various places: some were legally purchased, some were straw purchases, while 36 others were stolen. Most of the guns arrived loaded.
An associate of Campbell's allegedly texted him regarding the importance of selling loaded guns: "wats tha point of a gun if u ain't got tha ammo mite as well get a stick." Another text message referred to bullets as "cop killers."
Brennan, the special prosecutor, referred to the demeanor of the defendants as alternatively "horrifying and comical."
In one instance, Campbell and an associate allegedly attempted to assemble a Norinco SKS assault rifle from parts contained in a zebra-striped suitcase on the streets of Chinatown. The associate consulted a YouTube video on their smartphone before the undercover officer told them he'd take the weapon in pieces.
The 19 defendants face multiple counts of conspiracy and criminal sale of a firearms—Campbell alone faces up to 25 years in prison. You can read more on the investigation and the individual defendants here [PDF].