Criminal Justice News

Friday, September 21, 2018

ATF’s NFEA Graduates Its 18th Class of Firearm and Toolmark Examiner Trainees

WASHINGTON — The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) National Firearms Examiner Academy (NFEA) graduated its 2017-2018 class of 11 men and women today with apprentice/entry-level firearms and tool mark examiner skills after a year-long training program conducted by ATF’s National Laboratory Center (NLC). This newest cadre of students were trained in the fundamentals of firearms and tool mark examination, which serves as the foundation for supervised development into qualified examiners.

Members of the 18th NFEA graduating class include: Jori Farquharson, Washington State Patrol, Cheney, WA; Mallory Foran, Cuyahoga County Regional Forensic Laboratory, Cleveland, OH; Scott Genove, Contra Costa Sheriff’s Department, Martinez, CA; David Glatter; Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Brandi Jorgensen, Salt Lake City Police Department., Salt Lake City, UT; Emily Kearns, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, St. Paul, MN; Ashley Martin, Albuquerque Police Department, Albuquerque, NM; Lauren Rogers, Niagara County Sheriff’s Office, Lockport, NY; Nicolette Roth, Alaska Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory, Anchorage, AK; Kulvir, Sarai, Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, Reno, NV; and David Turnbow, Pennsylvania State Police, Harrisburg, PA.

The NFEA class was in session from Oct. 1, 2017 – Sept. 14, 2018. The class focused on laboratory safety protocols, as well as ethical standards and principles that govern the admissibility of expert testimony in court. Students received training in the history of black powder, the evolution of early firearms, the evolution and manufacturing of modern ammunition, and microscopy and instrumentation. Additional classes covered firearms identification, the manufacture of modern firearms, preliminary examination of firearms, bullet examination and comparison, tool mark examination, comparison and identification, and restoration of obliterated markings. Also included were terminal ballistics, gunshot residue, shot patterns, bullet path analysis and the examination and comparison of cartridges, cartridge cases, shot shells, and fired shot shells.

These graduates, after returning to their local and state law enforcement agencies, will continue their training for approximately one year at their home laboratories. Upon completion, they will be able to independently and completely examine and compare physical evidence related to firearms and tool mark identification; independently reach conclusions and render opinions relating to their examinations and comparisons; and provide expert testimony in a professional and impartial manner. The NFEA’s standardized program is supported by the Association of Firearms and Toolmark Examiners, nearly 60 federal, state, local, and industry partners with instruction and manufacturing tours. The NFEA has graduated 199 students from 45 states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands since its inception in 1999. The next class is scheduled to begin in October 2018.

Kotzebue Man Charged in Connection with the Investigation into Ashley Johnson-Barr’s Death

Anchorage, Alaska – U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder announced today that Peter Wilson, 41, of Kotzebue, Alaska, has been charged with making false statements to a federal agent, in connection with the investigation into the disappearance and death of 10-year-old Ashley Johnson-Barr.  Wilson was arrested on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018, and is scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 18, 2018, at 1:30 p.m.  

According to the complaint affidavit, during the course of the investigation, “JJ” was interviewed and advised law enforcement that, on the night of Sept. 6, 2018, she found Johnson-Barr’s cell phone in the pocket of a jacket belonging to Wilson, who occasionally stays with JJ.  She found the cell phone after hearing it repeatedly ring from Wilson’s jacket.  When she picked the phone up, she saw Johnson-Barr’s name displayed on the screen.  JJ called Johnson-Barr’s mother, who advised that Johnson-Barr was missing.  Johnson-Barr’s father retrieved the phone from JJ’s residence and turned it over to the Kotzebue Police Department.  When asked by Johnson-Barr’s father and JJ where he found the phone, Wilson stated he found it near the NANA building, which is at the intersection of 2nd and 3rd Avenue in Kotzebue.

JJ also advised law enforcement that on Sept. 6, 2018, she and Wilson were present at JJ’s mother’s (“SM”) house throughout the day.  This location is approximately one mile from Rainbow Park, which is where Johnson-Barr was last seen.  JJ and SM both advised law enforcement that at approximately 5:20 pm on that same day, SM asked Wilson to pick up JJ’s child and one other child (not Johnson-Barr).  Wilson left the house on a 4-wheeler at approximately 5:20 pm.  JJ advised that Wilson was gone until approximately 7:20 pm, and did not have any children with him when he returned.  Johnson-Barr’s parents were interviewed by law enforcement, who reported that Johnson-Barr and Wilson knew each other and that he had been to their house on numerous occasions.

The complaint alleges that, when Wilson was interviewed by the FBI, Wilson denied using a 4-wheeler at any time on Sept. 6, 2018, denied that he knew Johnson-Barr, and denied seeing Johnson-Barr’s name on her cell phone while he had it in his possession.  Also during the interview, Wilson repeatedly stated that he had found Johnson-Barr’s cell phone near the NANA building; however, investigators determined that the cell phone had travelled to areas well south and east of the location where she was last seen and where Wilson said he found the phone.  On Sept. 14, 2018, investigators initiated a search of the area where Johnson-Barr’s cell phone had travelled.  At approximately 4:15 pm, Johnson-Barr’s body was discovered one quarter mile off the road on the tundra.   

The Alaska State Troopers (AST), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Kotzebue Police Department conducted the investigation leading to the charges in this case.  This case is being prosecuted by Criminal Chief Frank Russo.  Russo stated, “The U.S. Attorney’s Office has been working with the FBI, the State Troopers, the Kotzebue Police Department, and the Department of Law on the investigation of Ashley Johnson-Barr’s death.  We will continue to work with our state and federal partners on the investigation and to assess where to file further charges, as well as what charges to be filed.”

A criminal complaint is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt

United States Attorney announces efforts to increase violent crime prosecutions in Acadiana

LAFAYETTE, La. – United States Attorney David C. Joseph announced today that local efforts to increase violent crime prosecutions in the Acadiana area are having a substantial impact.

Mr. Joseph’s focus on violent crime is part of the Department of Justice’s ongoing effort to increase targeted prosecutions of violent crime through the Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) program.  In the past year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Louisiana has prosecuted more than 200 defendants throughout the district, approximately 78 of which are in the Acadiana area, for firearm related offenses, including felons and drug dealers in possession of firearms. These prosecutions represent approximately three times the number of such cases than have been brought in previous years.

The PSN program is a collaborative effort led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office involving local, state and federal law enforcement.  In the Acadiana area, participants include the ATF, FBI, DEA, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Lafayette Parish District Attorney’s Office, Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office, Acadia Parish Sheriff’s Office, Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office, Lafayette Police Department, Crowley Police Department, officers with the Lafayette City Marshal’s Office.  The program is successful in bringing together all levels of law enforcement to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safe for everyone.  United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made turning the tide of rising violent crime in America a top priority and has directed all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to develop a crime reduction strategy involving PSN.

“Violent crime involving firearms has become a worsening problem in Acadiana,” Joseph stated.  ”This trend must end. We have been working with partner agencies to provide a targeted approached to reducing firearm-related violence by bringing federal charges against those felons and drug dealers most likely to cause violence in their communities. We want to spread the word that the full weight of the federal criminal justice system is committed to prosecuting those who spread violence in our communities.  They will be stopped.”

Included in our efforts, and in addition to the work of the ATF, is the FBI Safe Streets Task Force, a program that works hand in glove with the U.S. Attorney’s Project Safe Neighborhood Program.  To combat violent crime both in Lafayette and across the state, the FBI New Orleans Field Office has formed several gang task forces specifically to identify and eradicate drug dealers and violent offenders from Louisiana streets and neighborhoods. In concert with our Law Enforcement partners, the FBI utilizes intelligence-based analysis to strategically place gang task forces and federal resources throughout the state, which have been very effective.

These include:

South Central Louisiana Gang Task Force – Lafayette

Northwest Louisiana Violent Crime Task Force - Shreveport

Capital Area Gang Task – Baton Rouge

Central Louisiana Gang Task Force – Alexandria / Monroe

New Orleans Gang Task Force – New Orleans

These task forces pursue violent gangs through sustained, proactive, coordinated investigations to obtain prosecutions on violations such as racketeering, drug conspiracy, and firearms violations. The Safe Streets Task Force concept expands cooperation and communication among federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, increasing productivity and avoiding duplication of investigative efforts.

One of the key components of a Safe Streets Task Force is being able to combine short term, street level enforcement activity coupled with investigative tools and resources to root out and prosecute the entire gang.

Utilizing these best practices and through a number of drug and gang related investigations, the FBI’s Safe Street Task Force, in conjunction with federal, state, and local law enforcement inundated Lafayette streets and neighborhoods to stop the violence, apprehend gang members, and pursue swift justice for those responsible.

In the past few months, the FBI’s Lafayette Safe Streets Task Force has accounted for federal charges against 15 gang members at various levels within drug trafficking organizations.  These include numerous narcotics and firearms charges, including over 150 pounds of methamphetamine, six firearms, and substantial quantities and heroin and cocaine.

The Western District of Louisiana consists of 42 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes and encompasses two-thirds of the State of Louisiana. This area covers the cities of Alexandria, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Monroe and Shreveport.