With gun violence surging, U.S. Attorney targets new federal program for Cincinnati

Officials working to take illegal guns off the streets
Updated: Aug. 20, 2020 at 8:02 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (FOX19) - In the early morning of Aug. 16, Cincinnati Police Department Assistant Chief Paul Neudigate called U.S. Attorney Dave DeVillers and broke the news that 19 people had been shot and four were dead in multiple shootings across the city.

“I initially thought they were related, a mass shooting or retaliatory, but they were not,” DeVillers recalled from his Downtown Cincinnati office. “It was a bad night.”

DeVillers is in charge of the southern portion of Ohio. He has spent a lot of time lately working with the Cincinnati Police Department on how to stop the violent crime in the area.

One thing DeVillers wants is to bring a new federal program called Operation Legend to Cincinnati.

“I’m trying. The DOJ is not answering my calls now because I call so much,” DeVillers said. “It is not a lack of want on their part.”

The problem is this summer’s violence is not unique to Cincinnati.

“They want to come here, they recognize the problem,” said DeVillers. “The problem is there are only so many agents that can go places.”

Operation Legend is a coordinated initiative across law enforcement to address recent surges in violent crime.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr launched the operation July 8 as a sustained, systematic and coordinated law enforcement initiative in which federal law enforcement agencies work in conjunction with state and local law enforcement officials to fight violent crime.

The initiative is named in honor of 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was shot and killed while he slept early on the morning of June 29 in Kansas City.

Launched first in Kansas City, the operation was later expanded to Chicago, Albuquerque, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee in July. Recently the DOJ announced the program would also move into St. Louis, Memphis and Indianapolis this month.

Barr announced this week that there have been more than 1,000 arrests since the operation’s launch including defendants who have been charged in state and local courts.

Of those arrests, approximately 217 defendants have been charged with federal crimes. (The tally excludes Indianapolis, whose operation was just announced last Friday.)

Additionally, around 400 firearms have been seized by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“In just a few short weeks, federal investigators working side-by-side with state and local law enforcement have begun to make significant progress towards reducing violence related to illegal firearms, drug trafficking and other crime in our neighborhoods,” U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Justin Herdman said.

In Cleveland, Operation Legend’s law enforcement operations have already resulted in 32 defendants, some charged with multiple offenses:

  • 22 defendants have been charged with federal drug trafficking charges;
  • Nine defendants have been charged with federal firearms violations;
  • One defendant has been charged with carjacking; and
  • Two defendants remain fugitives.

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