Three people face federal charges of illegally buying the guns used to fatally shoot two Indiana officers.
U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler said Monday the three had roles in allowing two gunmen to illegally obtain the weapons used to kill Boone County Deputy Jacob Pickett on March 2 and Terre Haute Officer Robert Pitts on May 4.
Court documents say 33-year-old Tiffany Dean illegally bought a handgun for her brother, 20-year-old Levi Brenton of Terre Haute, who sold it to the gunman who shot Pitts and died after a police shootout.
Prosecutors say 29-year-old Dawn Rochon of Indianapolis gave a false address in buying the gun used in Pickett’s death. Minkler says investigators haven’t determined how the suspected gunman obtained it.
Court records didn’t list defense attorneys for the three.
Terre Haute Police Chief John Plasse said he hopes the charges send a message to others.
“That they will be held accountable when they place firearms in the hands of those that should not have them,” Plasse said. “We know nothing can be done to bring back our friend, however holding these individuals responsible for their actions will help us with the healing process.”
Monday’s announcement comes as the Department of Justice is focusing on gun violence and crimes through a strategy known as Project Safe Neighborhood.
“Project Safe Neighborhoods is a proven response using outreach prevention and enforcement of federal gun laws,” Minkler said.
Minkler added that in 2009 the project was responsible for a 4.1 percent reduction in violent crimes, and up to 42 percent reduction in some specific locations.
Minkler said it did not appear that the gun stores violated any federal laws in these cases, and that it was a matter of false information being put on the ATF forms that allowed the guns to be sold to individuals that otherwise would have likely been unable to purchase firearms.
Boone County Sheriff Mike Nielsen reflected on the tragedy of losing an officer, but said he also sees the change this incident could have on the future of gun violence.
“I don’t think really anyone understands the impact that losing an officer has not only on the family but the department,” Nielsen said. “And this may be the beginning of sending that clear message that we won’t tolerate this anymore.”