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Press Release

East St. Louis Man Sentenced to 104 Months for Possessing a Firearm with an Automatic Switch

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Illinois

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – An East St. Louis man received a prison sentence of 104 months on Tuesday in a U.S. District Court after admitting to possession of a firearm with a high-capacity magazine that operated as a machine gun as well as a 50-round drum magazine.

Derron Smith-Johnson, 28, pled guilty to Unlawful Possession of a Firearm by a Felon and Possession of a Machine Gun due to the firearm having an automatic switch.

According to court documents, the Public Safety Enforcement Group in East St. Louis was investigating three shootings and a homicide used with the same gun based on lab analysis in February 2022. The crimes happened within a one-week time frame and involved a silver GMC Acadia.

Video footage led PSEG to identify Smith-Johnson during the investigation, and agents visited an apartment he was known to occasionally stay at in Belleville, Illinois. Shortly after arriving, Smith-Johnson was taken into custody, and the homeowner consented to a search of the premises.

Stowed away in an air return vent was a Glock 23 40 caliber pistol with an automatic rifle switch loaded with an extended magazine containing 23 live rounds. Agents also recovered a 50-round drum magazine loaded with 50 live rounds of 40 caliber ammunition, as well as 43 rounds of 357 SIG ammunition in a bedroom dresser. A lab determined Smith-Johnson’s fingerprints to be on the Glock 23 pistol, which was later confirmed to be linked through ballistics comparisons to the three shootings and homicide under investigation by PSEG.

“Ballistic evidence can confirm if the same gun is used in multiple instances, and the recovered firearm was used in a week-long, violent crime spree,” said U.S. Attorney Rachelle Aud Crowe. “The Public Safety Enforcement Group is working day in and day out to improve protections for the East St. Louis community, and I applaud their efforts.”

“This sentencing sends a clear message to those that commit crimes of violence and illegally possess and use machine gun conversion devices (commonly referred to as switches), we are tired of it,” said Fred Winston, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF’s Kansas City Field Division. “This investigation utilized the very best combination of crime gun intelligence through ATF’s National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) and collaborative law enforcement partnerships to identify shooters in efforts to make our streets safer.”  

In addition to the 104-month prison sentence, Smith-Johnson also received three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay a $200 fine and $200 in special assessments.

The ATF led the investigation with assistance from PSEG and the Illinois State Police. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ali Burns prosecuted the case.

Updated January 11, 2023