Three U.S. Army soldiers have been buying guns in Kentucky and funneling them to the streets of Chicago, where they’ve turned up at the scenes of recent shootings and homicides, according to the Department of Justice.
The three men, 21-year-old Demarcus Adams, 22-year-old Jarius Brunson and 22-year-old Brandon Miller, were stationed at Fort Campbell, a military base at the Kentucky-Tennessee border. The three got caught up in an investigation into the Chicago gun pipeline after a March 26 mass shooting in Chicago killed one person and injured about seven.
The three were accused of supplying guns used to commit the mass shooting, according to the Department of Justice. The guns used in the mass shooting were tracked back to Federal Firearms Licensed dealers in Clarksville, Tenn., and the three accused soldiers bought most of the guns, the Department of Justice said.
The investigation didn’t stop in Tennessee. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms used gun transaction records to determine that the trio purchased 91 guns from multiple licensed dealers, according to the Department of Justice. Several of those dealers were located in the Kentucky cities of Oak Grove, Hopkinsville and Paducah.
After buying the guns, Miller allegedly provided them to people he knew in Chicago, according to the Justice Department.
On April 28, federal agents showed up with a search warrant at the home of Miller and Adams, who lived together. Investigators found 49 empty gun cases, according to the Department of Justice.
“Many of these empty cases were matched to firearms recovered by the Chicago Police Department at the scene of recent shootings and homicides,” the Justice Department said in a release Tuesday.
On April 28, Chicago police and federal agents interviewed Adams, who said that he and Miller would go to gun shops in the area, and Miller would send him money to purchase weapons, according to The Tribune Content Agency. Adams said he believed Miller was selling the firearms on the street in Chicago.
Tribune reported that agents searched the men’s cellphones and found conversations between Adams, Miller and Brunson about the gun purchases, according to a criminal complaint.
When discussing a trip to buy guns, Miller messaged Adams, “Naw but u got zelle?” — referring to a cash transfer service, according to the Tribune.
“Nahh just ApplePay and the Cashapp,” Adams responded, according to the complaint.
Miller then responded: “What time you off im about to cashapp you I need you to grab 3 guns the cheapest 17′s 19′s.”
The Tribune reported that agents examined messages between Miller and Brunson, and found photographs of firearms along with haggling over prices, according to the complaint.
Brunson sent Miller photos of two weapons, and Miller responded, “I got you like $1200 for both em.” Brunson replied, “1300?”
And Miller sent back: “I think 1250 max but that’s a steal.”
Searches of Miller’s phone also revealed messages exchanged with numbers with Chicago area codes discussing firearm purchases, according to Tribune.
The majority of the firearms were purchased during the last five months, according to the Department of Justice.
The three defendants were federally charged with transferring a firearm to an out-of-state resident, making false statements during the purchase of a firearm, engaging in the business without a firearms license, wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to commit Title 18 offenses.
Miller, Adams and Brunson were all scheduled to appear in federal court Tuesday. U.S. prosecutors filed a motion Tuesday to keep Miller in federal detention, alleging that Miller led the gun-trafficking operation in order to arm people for violent crimes in Chicago.
Prosecutors also stated in their motion that Miller is “currently facing court-martial proceedings through the military based upon an alleged sexual assault he committed.”
The defendants could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted, according to the Department of Justice.