U.S. ATTORNEY, JACKSON COUNTY SHERIFF, AND FEDERAL, STATE AND LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT ANNOUNCE SIGNIFICANT OPERATION ON GULF COAST
Year Long Investigation Results in 17 Federally Indicted, 97 Illegal Guns Taken Off Streets
Gulfport, Miss. – This week, federal, state and local law enforcement on the Mississippi Gulf Coast are executing numerous arrest warrants in and around Jackson County, including a number of individuals indicted and arrested on federal criminal charges, announced U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst, Special Agent in Charge Dana Nichols with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, and Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell.
Over the last 13 months, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives ("ATF") has led a multi-agency investigation with the South Mississippi Metropolitan Enforcement Team and the Federal Bureau of investigation‘s Safe Street Task Force, focusing on career criminal offenders, armed narcotics traffickers, and documented gang members in and around Moss Point and Pascagoula. This investigation involved over thirty (30) controlled purchases of illegal firearms and/or narcotics, targeted follow-ups and interviews driven by and based upon intelligence and evidence gathered, and coordination prosecutors and officers to prioritize and marshal resources towards the worst criminal offenders in these communities.
This collaborative effort has resulted in the indictment by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of 17 defendants on gun charges, half of whom have already pled guilty or have indicated they will be pleading guilty.
Ninety-seven (97) illegal firearms were purchased or seized in this initiative, including a firearm that had been stolen out of a marked police car. Twenty (20) of these illegal firearms were either reported stolen or had obliterated serial numbers.
"The arrests this week are the result of months of hard work by special agents, officers, and prosecutors to take violent criminals off our streets and put them in jail where they belong. Today’s announcement, coupled with the significant increase in the number of indictments throughout the Southern District Mississippi, should serve as warning to criminals on the Coast and throughout Mississippi – you will be caught, you will be prosecuted, and you will be punished for your crimes. You can expect to see a lot more of us in the coming months, as we expand our crime fighting efforts, help law-abiding citizens take back their communities and make the Coast safe again," said U.S. Attorney Hurst.
The South Mississippi Metropolitan Enforcement Team is a partnership between the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and the police departments of the cities of Moss Point, Pascagoula, Ocean Springs, and Gautier, with the goal to eliminate illegal narcotics from Jackson
County by investigating complaints of illegal narcotics activity, arresting illegal narcotics offenders and aid in the criminal prosecution of these offenders.
The FBI Safe Streets Task Force is a Gulf Coast High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area initiative and receives funding from the Office of National Drug Control Policy in Washington, D.C. It is made up of special agents from the FBI and law enforcement officers from the Pascagoula, Moss Point, Gautier and Ocean Springs Police Departments, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, and U.S. Border Patrol.