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Mass shooting leads feds to Tennessee-to-Chicago gun pipeline involving 3 Army soldiers, feds say

Judge's gavel in a courtroom, stack of law books. (wp paarz/Flickr)

A mass shooting on Chicago’s South Side a year ago has led to a federal gun trafficking indictment alleging members of a Gangster Disciples faction conspired with three Army soldiers stationed nearly 400 miles away to bring illegal weapons into the city and fuel further gun violence.

The indictment unsealed earlier this week in U.S. District Court in Nashville, Tennessee, names three soldiers based out of Fort Campbell, which sits along the Kentucky-Tennessee border, as well as nine reputed members of the Pocket Town faction of the Gangster Disciples.

In announcing the charges Friday at a news conference in Washington, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said that many of the more than 90 guns allegedly trafficked in the scheme have been linked to Chicago-area shootings where “multiple people have been wounded and several people have been killed.”

“The Justice Department will spare no resources to hold accountable criminal gun traffickers,” Garland said. “There is no hiding place. It doesn’t matter where you are or how far away you are, if you are illegally trafficking guns … we will find you.”

Joining Garland at the news conference was U.S. Attorney John Lausch of Chicago, Kristen de Tineo, who heads the Chicago field division of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and Eric Carter, first deputy superintendent for the Chicago Police Department.

Lausch said that indictments like the one returned in Tennessee reflect how collaboration across law enforcement and jurisdictions can have a “tremendous impact on gangs in Chicago.”

“What they see is that they will be held accountable,” Lausch said.

All 12 defendants were charged in the 21-count indictment with conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and conspiracy to commit firearms offenses in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. The most serious counts carry up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

The investigation began in the wake of the March 2021 mass shooting outside a pop-up party in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood that left one man dead and at least seven people wounded, according to court records. Chicago police found more than 100 shell casings as well as multiple firearms at the scene.

The ATF’s national tracing center was able to trace five of those weapons to purchases made at gun stores in Kentucky and Tennessee by the three soldiers, Demarcus Adams, 21, Jarius Brunson, 22, and Brandon Miller, 22, according to the charges. All three were enlisted members of the U.S. Army stationed at the time at the sprawling Fort Campbell military installation.

The alleged Chicago gang members accused of buying the weapons were identified as Blaise Smith, 29; Raheem Johnson, 24; Bryant Larkin, 33; Corey Curtis, 26; Elijah Tillman, 24; Lazarus Greenwood, 23; Dwight Lowry, 41; and Dreshion Parks, 25. Another alleged associate of the gang, Terrell Mitchell, 27, of Davenport, Iowa, was also charged.

Two now-deceased members of the same gang, Khalief Whitfield and Dontae Thomas, were named as unindicted co-conspirators.

The indictment alleged Miller is associated with the gang members and recruited his two fellow soldiers into the conspiracy in December 2020.

Over the next year and a half, Miller and his associates provided false information on firearms purchase application forms to buy guns from local dealers in the Clarksville, Tennessee, and Oak Grove, Kentucky areas, the indictment alleged.

They later sent photos of the firearms with prices to the gang members in Chicago, who made payments for the guns via CashApp and electronic bank transfers before picking them up at various locations in and near the city, according to the charges.

At one point, Miller also had 1,000 rounds of 9 mm ammunition available for purchase, the charges alleged.

The indictment described numerous text exchanges between the soldiers and the gang members, including several where the ongoing gun violence in Chicago was not only discussed, but lamented.

In January 2021, Miller allegedly bragged about the amount of firearms his crew had been able to provide to the gang, which at the time he said numbered at least “40some,” according to the indictment.

“That’s what’s up!” Lowry allegedly responded. “I hope they use em to protect themselves and each other and not just show off for videos. I’m tired of all the death.”

Three months later, Miller sent Larkin a photo of firearm cases stacked up in his residence with the caption, “ain’t even half,” according to the indictment. Miller followed up the next day, sending Larkin another text saying he did not “wanna hear about no mo funerals.”

The Pocket Town gang faction has repeatedly been linked to episodes of gun violence in the city, and in recent years has been embroiled in a high-profile feud with a faction of the Black P Stones called No Limit.

That dispute boiled over in January 2020, when reputed No Limit associate Gregory Jackson III, better known as “Lil Greg,” was fatally shot at the Studio Nineteen barbershop in the South Loop, according to police.

The victim, who was a close friend of Chicago rapper and reputed No Limit gang member G Herbo, was sitting in a barber chair waiting for a haircut when a 20- to 30-year-old man wearing all dark clothing including a hooded jacket and a face mask came in and asked employees for directions to the restroom before opening fire.

No one has been charged in Jackson’s slaying, which prompted police to issue warnings about possible retaliatory shootings. Several weeks later, however, Christopher Mosley was charged with weapons offenses after he was arrested driving a sport utility vehicle believed to have been used in the shooting.

Prosecutors said a semi-automatic Glock with a laser attachment was found in the knapsack Mosley was wearing, along with a drum magazine capable of holding “many, many rounds.”

The serial number on that weapon, which was noted in police reports, matches a .40-caliber Glock allegedly purchased by Miller in Kentucky just weeks earlier.

Mosley has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial, records show.

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