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Statement of U.S. Attorney John F. Wood
Project Ceasefire

June 20, 2007

We’re here to mark a significant milestone in Project Ceasefire with the announcement that 1,000 defendants have been convicted of illegally possessing firearms.

Project Ceasefire is an initiative launched in late 1999 to target felons in the Kansas City metropolitan area who illegally possess firearms.

It is illegal for felons to carry guns, and those who break the law will be sent to federal prison. Project Ceasefire focuses on keeping guns out of the hands of convicted felons, and on preventing violent crime by taking armed felons off the streets.

The one thousand Project Ceasefire signs on the lawn dramatically illustrate the number of convictions obtained in the program's first seven years.

We reached the 1,000th conviction under Project Ceasfire when Isaac Coppage pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of this sawed-off shotgun. Under Project Ceasefire, we not only took this weapon out of the hands of a dangerous criminal; we also have taken 1,000 criminals off the streets of our community.

Of course, many of these felons possessed more than one weapon. For example, when Coppage was caught with this shotgun, Probation Officers also found these three pistols hidden in an old stove in his basement.

On average, each of the 1,000 defendants convicted under Project Ceasefire has three or four prior felony convictions. Hundreds of those defendants have prior convictions for such violent crimes as murder, rape or assault, and nearly half of them have prior drug-trafficking convictions.

We know that felons are more likely to commit crimes than non-offenders. These 1,000 felons were taken off the street for a significant amount of time. In this way, Project Ceasefire is having a significant impact by reducing violent crime in Kansas City.

Let me share another example that illustrates the impact of Project Ceasefire.

Debesai Banks, a 25-year-old Gladstone man, knew he was in deep trouble when police officers pulled him over for a traffic violation. Officers arrested Banks for driving with a suspended license and on outstanding warrants, but the real trouble began when they searched his car and found a loaded Smith and Wesson .44-caliber revolver under the driver’s seat.

When Banks realized the officers had found his gun, he bolted – despite being handcuffed – and tried to run away from the officers, shouting, “I’m not going back for five!”

Banks heard the message of Project Ceasefire loud and clear. He knew that it is illegal for felons to possess firearms. He knew, thanks to an effective media campaign, that the average sentence is five years in federal prison. He heard the message, but unfortunately, he didn’t heed the message of Project Ceasefire. As a result of his conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm, Banks learned the hard way: Gun crime means hard time.

To reach this milestone of 1,000 convictions is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our Project Ceasefire partners. We credit the success of Project Ceasefire to the cooperation between law enforcement agencies at the local, state and national level, and between the public and private sectors.