A U.S. attorney based in Little Rock announced Tuesday the indictment of 41 convicted felons on federal charges, praising a federal anti-violence program for changing the way local and federal authorities work together.
The indictments were made under the Violence Reduction Network, a national program with the U.S. Department of Justice, that aims to reduce violent crime by providing participating agencies with training and federal resources.
Little Rock and West Memphis joined the federal anti-violence program in 2015, along with Compton, Calif., Flint, Mich., and Newark, N.J.
All of the 41 people indicted have long histories of drug trafficking, violent felonies or both, said Christopher Thyer, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
"They are truly among the worst of the worst criminals in Pulaski County," Thyer said.
In total, 38 of the 41 people indicted were from Pulaski County, according to the U.S. attorney's office. Forty of the 41 were indicted on federal gun charges, according to the office.
At least five indictees had separate charges related to the possession of drugs with intent to deliver, according to the federal office.
Four of the defendants are awaiting arrest while the other 37 are in various stages of prosecution, according to a statement from Thyer's office.
The Violence Reduction Network set up a procedure in which assistant U.S. attorneys and deputy prosecutors in Pulaski County reviewed every felony gun possession case, Thyer said.
The prosecutors then made a collaborative decision on whether the case would go to federal jurisdiction or stay in the state system, he said.
In the past, Thyer said, state and federal officials did collaborate on cases, but it was done on a piecemeal, case-specific basis.
"It's one of those, 'Yeah, why have we not been doing that all along?'" Thyer said. "It took the [Violence Reduction Network] really to focus us to doing it."
The people targeted for federal charges had extensive or violent criminal histories, or were accused of "particularly egregious or violent" crimes, the U.S. attorney's office said in a statement.
The defendants indicted were previously convicted of violent crimes including rape, aggravated robbery and domestic battery, the statement said. Little Rock and North Little Rock police initially investigated a majority of the cases that led to the indictments, according to the office.
Thyer said the Violence Reduction Network will be a tool for authorities to use, but will not be the cure to solving violent crime in Little Rock and West Memphis.
Little Rock Police Chief Kenton Buckner said the department joined the network to build a stronger relationship with federal law enforcement agencies stationed in the city, along with prosecutors at the state and federal level.
"We know now that we can do more when we're working collectively," Buckner said. "And we're more efficient when we're able to strategically go after key individuals who are causing problems in our neighborhood."
Buckner said he hopes to see future arrests from the Violence Reduction Network. Both Little Rock and West Memphis are in their second year of the federal program and will be part of the network through September.
Buckner said collaboration with federal authorities also can help Little Rock police take down criminal groups and organizations.
"They have many more resources to be able to do some of the things we have to do, particularly when you're in a city like Little Rock where violent crime is so much of a huge problem," he said.
Also on Tuesday, Thyer announced the arrest of two men accused of pulling handguns out during the robbery of a Little Rock jewelry store in 2015. He said the robbery investigation was not related to the Violence Reduction Network, but the work from authorities highlighted the collaborative nature of the federal program.
Quinshod Shaw, 27, of Oklahoma City was arrested Monday while Darris Denton, 29, of Oklahoma City was served an arrest warrant Monday while in jail on unrelated charges, according to a news release from Thyer's office.
Both men are accused of pointing guns at employees and a customer during a robbery of Roberson's Fine Jewelry near Cantrell Road on Sept. 22, 2015, the statement said.
Denton and Shaw reportedly held the guns while Siee Ramon Russell, 38, smashed jewelry cases with a hammer and another man, Tony Gabriel, 49, grabbed the jewelry, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
According to the release, the robbers took more than $300,000 worth of jewelry.
Blood samples taken from shards of glass match Russell's DNA, according to the release, while a DNA sample from a hat discarded in the stolen truck led authorities to identify Gabriel, the release said.
Russell and Gabriel were later arrested and pleaded guilty in October to "aiding and abetting brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence," according to the statement.
Thyer said his office is working daily on cases related to the Violence Reduction Network that were not included in the 41 indictments announced Tuesday.
Metro on 02/15/2017
Print Headline: 41 felons indicted via anti-violence program