Antonio L. Bender,19, of Nashville, Tenn., pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court to federal firearms charges and obstruction of justice, announced U.S. Attorney Don Cochran of the Middle District of Tennessee. These charges resulted from an incident on March 27, 2017, where Bender shot at two Metropolitan Nashville Police Department officers who were responding to a report of shots being fired.
Bender was indicted by a federal grand jury on May 10, 2017, on charges of being an unlawful drug user in possession of two firearms; possession of a stolen firearm; and obstruction of justice by deleting relevant social media posts with intent to impede a federal investigation. He pleaded guilty to all charges and will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger on March 26, 2018.
U.S. Attorney Don Cochran commended the MNPD officers and stated, “These officers were doing their duty to investigate violent crime which has plagued this community when they were shot at by this defendant. They displayed appropriate restraint in not returning fire due to their training and their awareness of the innocent bystanders in the area. In keeping with our zero-tolerance policy regarding violence against law enforcement officers, we will seek an appropriately severe sentence against this illegally armed violent gang member.”
According to the statement of facts presented at the plea hearing, Bender is a Rollin’ 60s Crips gang member and was released from juvenile custody in October 2016. On March 27, 2017, MNPD officers were responding to a report of shots being fired in the area of the J.C. Napier and Tony Sudekum public housing developments. As they were patrolling, two officers heard more gunfire and got out of their patrol car to investigate. While on foot, they heard four to five more shots before seeing Bender, who was armed with two pistols, which were equipped with a laser and a flashlight. Bender raised the pistols towards the officers, fired once, and then fled on foot. The officers did not return fire because there were bystanders behind Bender, and they could not fire without endangering them.
The officers chased Bender, who surrendered a short distance away, after discarding the two pistols, a Glock .40 caliber semi-automatic and a Smith & Wesson .40 caliber semi-automatic, which had previously been reported stolen.
Also according to the statement of facts, Bender is an unlawful drug user and he had taken both pistols from an unknown man selling firearms a few weeks earlier. He was involved in a shooting earlier in the day on March 27, 2017, in which he shot a person who had sold one of his associates some fake cocaine. Multiple other shots struck and heavily damaged an occupied car nearby.
Bender faces a maximum of ten years in prison on each of the firearms charges, and a maximum of 20 years in prison for obstruction of justice.
This case was investigated by the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sunny A.M. Koshy is prosecuting the case.