Nine people were arrested for drug and firearm offenses as a result of an multi-agency investigation in Lexington that led to the seizure of nearly 100 crime guns, as well as fentanyl, crack cocaine and methamphetamine, according to officials with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
In a Thursday press conference, officials with the ATF, Kentucky State Police and Lexington Police Department announced the offenders in the investigation had more than 100 previous felony arrests for various crimes — sexual offenses, drug trafficking, robbery and non-fatal shootings.
The investigation spanned “several months,” nearly a dozen warrants were issued and executed and in the last 48 hours, Louisville ATF Special Agent in Charge Shawn Morrow said.
“These are the types of offenders who continue to threaten our neighborhoods despite previous run-ins with the judicial system,” Morrow said.
Nine of 12 offenders were arrested as of Thursday afternoon, according to Morrow, with an additional arrest expected. He confirmed a heavy police presence at the Sportsman Hotel in Lexington that afternoon was a part of their investigation.
Morrow did not publicly name any suspects who are in custody and said the investigation is ongoing. He said some of the suspects were not from Lexington, but choosing to “hide” in the city. He did not confirm the charges that suspects are facing.
“If you use a firearm to commit a crime in Lexington or you’re unlawfully in possession of firearms, you’re going to get the attention of law enforcement,” Morrow said. “That’s what ATF and Lexington police pledge to do, is to target those individuals to make our community safer.”
Lexington police Chief Lawrence Weathers said it was a “long few days,” but the dedication and determination of law enforcement agencies was “unwavering.”
“Because of combined efforts of everyone here, our community is safer today,” Weathers said.
ATF crime gun technology helps make connections
Agency officials at the press conference touted technology used by the ATF during the investigation, including the National Integrated Ballistic Network which is designed to take firearms evidence from different scenes and analyze any possible links through matching shell casings.
Historically, police agencies have had access to four machines to access the ballistic network throughout the state to submit evidence for testing. In Kentucky, there are two machines in Louisville, one in Lexington and one with a state police agency.
Both Morrow and Weathers also highlighted the real-time intelligence center for assisting in the operation.
“The RTIC provided timely information to personnel in the field, which made locating individuals more efficient,” Weathers said.
For guns to be traced by the ATF, the guns must be part of a bonafide law enforcement investigation, according to ATF officials. A “crime gun” is a firearm recovered by law enforcement after being used in a crime or suspected of being used in a crime.
According to a 2020 firearms trace data report, most traced guns investigated by the ATF in Kentucky were traced back to sales originating in the state. Law enforcement traced more than 3,650 guns that had been recovered. But outside the commonwealth, the highest number of firearms traced back to Kentucky were found in Ohio, Illinois, Tennessee, Indiana and Michigan.