News and Press Releases

guardian of justice award

kC police detectives honored for child exploitation investigation

fBI agent honored for violent crime investigation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 19, 2013

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that two Kansas City, Mo., police detectives and an FBI agent have received the Guardian of Justice Award.

Kansas City Police Department Detectives Greg Harmon and Rebecca Mills and FBI Special Agent Jeffrey Atwood were honored on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013, during the 11th Annual LECC Training Seminar in Springfield, Mo.

Greg Harmon & Rebecca Mills

Harmon and Mills were recognized for their singular work in the successful investigation and prosecution of Corey McKinney. McKinney pleaded guilty during the second day of his federal jury trial on Jan. 16, 2013, to child sex trafficking and producing child pornography. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Sept. 10, 2013. Under federal statutes McKinney is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison without parole, up to a sentence of life in federal prison without parole.

The McKinney case originated from a walk-in complaint by a Kansas City man who said he was the victim of an extortion attempt by McKinney, who was threatening this man for having sex with his “16-year-old sister.” Harmon and Mills interviewed this man, and in the process uncovered an unseemly story involving an illicit Internet meet-up, surreptitious recordings of sexual activity, his serial exploitation of a minor, all wrapped up in an extortionate blackmail scheme. Their proactive work in this case enabled them to quickly identify McKinney, who was arrested in the midst of collecting money as part of his ill-conceived scheme.

These detectives collaborated with various law enforcement agencies (including the FBI and the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office) and numerous private entities to ensure that federal prosecutors received all necessary and helpful evidence to build and prosecute this case. Harmon and Mills were wholly professional and diligent as this case progressed. At trial, Harmon served as the lead case agent and Mills provided expert testimony on human trafficking and victim issues that assisted the jury in putting the evidence introduced at trial within a human trafficking context.

This investigation and prosecution consumed much of their time and resources, but, despite this fact, they continued to generate a number of cases worthy of federal prosecution during the pendency of this prosecution.

Harmon and Mills have worked closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to develop human trafficking investigations. Their past and ongoing work has led to numerous successful prosecutions, many originating out of Operation Guardian Angel, a proactive human trafficking initiative that has been adapted as a model replicated numerous times in various districts across the nation.

Jeffrey Atwood

Atwood was recognized for his work investigating a cold case that led to the successful prosecution of a violent offender. Mark Joseph Morris pleaded guilty to some robbery charges contained in a federal indictment and was convicted at trial on the remaining charges (of using firearms to commit the robberies) on March 22, 2013. Morris faces at least 55 years in prison for using firearms to rob two Springfield banks and a drugstore in November 2008.

Atwood focused the investigation of the unsolved armed robberies in a new direction, laying the groundwork for the firearms convictions even though no gun was recovered in the robberies and no positive identification had been made of the suspect. Morris, the master of disguise, had terrorized two Springfield banks, a drug store, two grocery stores and left scores of victims traumatized from his gun wielding antics.

Atwood relied upon old-fashioned police work, which meant he got from behind his desk and pounded the pavement. He spoke with the Springfield police investigators to see if anything was missing out of their reports. He visited the witnesses and had them go over their statements to ensure accuracy, and asked questions that previous investigators did not ask. He crawled over crime scenes again to ponder motive and escape routes. Atwood repeatedly viewed the surveillance video until discovering the most miniscule of details that linked the suspect to two of the robberies.

During the trial, Atwood worked very closely with detectives from the Springfield Police Department to develop additional evidence, including statements that greatly assisted in the cross examination of the defendant. Whether he was asked to speak to witnesses, to explore a crime scene again, or to make the evidence available for the defense, Atwood worked tirelessly to fulfill that request. During trial, he expertly handled the audio-visual component of the bank and consumer store video presentation. His unwavering enthusiasm was an encouragement throughout the criminal prosecution process.

Ultimately, Atwood’s work led to the removal of a very dangerous, repeat felon from our community. Even though Morris had numerous violent felonies on his record, these federal convictions will ensure that he will not victimize any community again.

Atwood started his law enforcement career as street cop in the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department, rising through the ranks to become a detective before joining the FBI.

Guardian of Justice Award

The annual Guardian of Justice Award recognizes a state or local officer as well as a federal agent for investigative excellence, selfless collaboration, tireless trial support, commendable diligence and professionalism, and noteworthy assistance to prosecution. The prestigious law enforcement award is presented by the U.S. Attorney’s Office each year during the law enforcement training conference.

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