ATF-Led Law Enforcement Operation Targets Violent Crime In Bridgeport And New Haven
“Operation Samson” results in 73 firearms seized; more than 150 expected to be charged
New Haven – Law enforcement officials today announced the results of a four-month joint law enforcement initiative to stem violent crime in Bridgeport and New Haven. The operation, headed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), resulted in the seizure of more than 73 illegal firearms and is expected to result in the prosecution of 154 individuals on federal or state charges. Today’s announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Deirdre M. Daly, ATF Special Agent in Charge Daniel J. Kumor, Bridgeport Police Chief Joseph L. Gaudett, Jr., New Haven Police Chief Dean Esserman, Commissioner Dora B. Schriro of the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, Fairfield State’s Attorney John Smriga and New Haven State’s Attorney Michael Dearington.
“There is no higher calling in law enforcement than preventing violent crime,” stated U.S. Attorney Deirdre M. Daly. “Under the powerful leadership of the ATF and with the invaluable collaboration of the Bridgeport and New Haven Police Departments, the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection and other local and federal law enforcement agencies, Operation Samson has successfully stemmed the violence in two of Connecticut’s largest cities. Samson included dangerous undercover operations. We commend the agents and officers who repeatedly risked their lives to remove over 70 illegal guns and a large number of violent offenders from our communities.”
“ATF is always focused on violent crime, as this four-month enhanced enforcement initiative has shown,” stated Daniel J. Kumor, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF Boston Field Division. “The citizens of New Haven and Bridgeport have been victimized by violent criminals who act with total disregard for public safety and our goal is to take these offenders off the streets, period. The partnership of law enforcement and prosecutors in Connecticut taking a united stand contributed to the operation’s overall success. To this end, we are committed to utilize every resource to keep citizens safe. To those who choose to disregard the rules of our communities by committing violence, be warned, we will not rest until you are off the streets.”
In March 2014, the ATF and the Bridgeport and New Haven Police Departments launched “Operation Samson” a multi-layered initiative targeting violent criminals and illegal firearm possession and firearm trafficking in New Haven and Bridgeport. As part of the initiative, approximately 40 ATF special agents and personnel from Connecticut and across the country were deployed with New Haven and Bridgeport Police to conduct numerous covert operations. The combined law enforcement team brought a range of expertise to the operation, including tactical, technical, analytical, undercover skills and supervisory experience.
Several other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies supported the initiative as investigations expanded into other cities and towns in Connecticut and across state lines.
The initiative employed intelligence-led policing to determine where to place resources in order to have the greatest impact. During Operation Samson, law enforcement personnel conducted approximately 425 operations, which included undercover meetings, controlled purchases of firearms and narcotics, and the execution of search and arrest warrants. As a result, a total of 80 individuals have been charged, or are expected to be charged, with a variety of federal firearms, narcotics and robbery violations. In addition, 74 defendants have been charged, or expected to be charge, with various state offenses.
The operation resulted in the confiscation of 73 firearms, including sawed-off shotguns, sawed-off rifles and a silencer. Law enforcement also recovered more than one kilogram of crack cocaine, approximately 750 grams of powder cocaine, more than 200 grams of heroin, more than seven kilograms of marijuana, and approximately 400 prescription narcotic pills.
During Operation Samson, investigators uncovered an alleged firearms trafficking ring that used out-of-state straw purchasers who accepted narcotics in exchange for firearms. This ring was identified as having trafficked approximately 100 firearms into Connecticut. A second alleged firearms trafficking ring that used straw-purchasers within Connecticut is estimated to be responsible for delivering 30 illegal firearms into New Haven and Bridgeport. Both of these cases are still being actively investigated.
Investigators also identified and arrested alleged members of robbery crews, some of whom also trafficked in firearms and narcotics.
“I am deeply grateful to the ATF and also the state crime lab,” stated Bridgeport Police Chief Joseph L. Gaudett, Jr. “For the last few months, ATF agents and our officers have worked together seamlessly every day and night. There was a common goal to take guns and dangerous criminals off the street. The technicians at the crime lab worked behind the scenes but they were equal partners in helping us build these cases. Any time law enforcement sent evidence for analysis, the response unfailingly was ‘We’ll get right on it. When do you need the results?’ Because of those efforts, the streets of Bridgeport are safer today.”
“Cooperation between police departments, law enforcement agencies and the community are what’s required to achieve progress,” stated New Haven Police Chief Dean Esserman. “This collaboration, led by the ATF, is an impressive example of cooperation. We are particularly grateful to them, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Connecticut State Crime Laboratory. This precedent-setting mission has targeted local gun violence and shown great results. We’re proud of those who’ve put in the long hours to see this operation through. New Haven and the State of Connecticut are safer for it.”
“The results of this initiative clearly demonstrate the effectiveness of cooperation between federal and state law enforcement,” stated Fairfield State’s Attorney John Smriga.
“This initiative has brought together all branches of law enforcement to strengthen partnerships, provide a sense of security and make our greater New Haven communities safer,” stated New Haven State’s Attorney Michael Dearington.
An instrumental component of Operation Samson has been the work of the Connecticut State Crime Laboratory in utilizing the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) to analyze ballistics evidence. NIBIN is an ATF-administered digital ballistics imaging system that aids law enforcement agencies in their investigations by capturing images of shell casings to link violent crimes involving firearms, and subsequently identify firearms users or “trigger pullers.” NIBIN-users are able to acquire digital images of the unique markings made on fired ammunition recovered from a crime scene or test-fired from a crime gun recovered by law enforcement, and then quickly compare those images against earlier NIBIN entries. If a potential match emerges, firearm examiners compare the original evidence with a microscope to confirm the match, or a “hit.”
Within recent months, the Connecticut State Crime Laboratory has entered ballistics evidence recovered from crimes committed within the state into NIBIN and identified a substantial number of NIBIN “hits.” To date, 42 such hits have linked 104 crimes involving the unlawful discharge of firearms that have occurred in Bridgeport, New Haven and surrounding areas. NIBIN has linked these unlawful discharges to robberies, aggravated assaults, and homicides. Importantly, these links have provided law enforcement with timely, actionable leads to assist in identifying serial shooters and violent criminal organizations. NIBIN has also been instrumental in the investigation of four separate homicides. One firearm recovered during Operation Samson has been linked to a previously unsolved homicide and five additional shooting investigations.
“I would like to thank the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives for its commitment of resources to the state of Connecticut and to Operation Samson,” stated Dr. Dora B. Schriro, Commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection. “Bridgeport and New Haven are to be commended as well for their leadership in making their communities safer places to live and work. The additional financial support provided by the Statewide Firearms Trafficking Task Force and the participation by the Connecticut State Police and the State Crime Laboratory were also critical to the success of the Operation. In just a matter of months, this partnership has helped to reduce gun violence and strengthen our communities.”
Operation Samson is the ninth Enhanced Enforcement Initiative (EEI) conducted by ATF since 2012. The cities of New Haven and Bridgeport were chosen for this EEI based on Uniform Crime Reports that ranked both cities as having high amounts of violent crime, and due to existing partnerships between ATF and the New Haven and Bridgeport Police Departments. Previous ATF EEI’s were deployed in New Orleans; Philadelphia; Oakland, Calif.; Flint, Mich.; Chicago; Stockton, Calif.; St. Louis, and Camden, N.J.
U.S. Attorney Daly and ATF Special Agent in Charge Kumor acknowledged and commended the investigative support and assistance of several additional law enforcement agencies including the U.S. Marshals Service, Homeland Security Investigations, the Statewide Firearms Trafficking Task Force, the Connecticut State Police, the Connecticut Department of Correction and the Milford, Norwalk, Stamford, Waterbury and West Haven Police Departments.
The federal cases are being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Violent Crime and Narcotics Unit under the leadership of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Dave Vatti, Robert Spector and Tracy Dayton.
U.S. Attorney Daly stressed that charges contained in indictments and complaints are not evidence of guilt. Charges are only allegations, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.