Transcending borders: Indiana man allegedly supplied gun used to kill Chicago officer, state lawmakers react

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CHICAGO — Two brothers from Chicago have been charged in a weekend shooting during a traffic stop that left one officer dead and another injured, while an Indiana man is accused of supplying the gun allegedly used in the shooting.

Jamel Danzy, 29, of Hammond, is federally charged for his alleged role in purchasing and then illegally supplying the semi-automatic handgun that a complaint states was used in the shooting that left 29-year-old Chicago police officer Ella French dead and another officer injured.

“You might as well have pulled the trigger too and took this officer’s life because you purchased this gun, you gave it to these individuals, whether you knew it or not,” said Andrew Holmes, a community activist in Chicago.

According to a criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Chicago, Danzy bought the gun at a federal firearms dealer in Hammond on March 18, 2021 and falsely certified that he was the buyer on the required forms. Documents state that instead, Danzy was actually a ‘straw purchaser’ who bought the gun at the request of someone he knew in Chicago who is a convicted felon, and therefore, not legally allowed to purchase a gun.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said a complaint shows Danzy gave the gun to the Illinois resident shortly after he purchased it. According to the criminal complaint, the gun was used in the deadly shooting on Aug. 7.

In a press conference Tuesday, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker said, “We’ve gotta do more to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. We’ve gotta do more to interdict the guns that are coming across the border from states that have systems of tracking that are nowhere near what we have in the State of Illinois.”

According to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, Emonte Morgan, 21, is charged with first degree murder, attempted murder and other charges, while 22-year-old Eric Morgan faces charges of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, unlawful use of a weapon by a felon and obstruction of justice.

The federal conspiracy charge leveled against Danzy carries a maximum of five years in federal prison, if convicted.

Chicago leaders have, for some time, claimed that the city of Chicago is seeing a problem when it comes to illegal guns coming in from other states, particularly Indiana.

In April, the city of Chicago filed a lawsuit against an Indiana gun store, claiming it has sold hundreds, if not thousands, of guns to straw buyers that have ended up in the hands of felons and at crime scenes in the city.

CBS4 spoke with several Indiana lawmakers Tuesday afternoon in light of the recent federal charges in the deadly shooting, and the ongoing concerns that Indiana’s relaxed gun laws are contributing to a pipeline of guns moving from the state up to Chicago.

“Chicago press surfaced a different problem which is that Indiana has a reputational problem when it comes to guns that is severe and to some extent, understandable,” said State Rep. Ed Delaney (D-Indianapolis).

He said he believes straw purchases are a real problem, but knows the issue isn’t individual to Indiana alone.

“I think as long as everybody’s following the law, then that’s not an issue,” shared Indiana Sen. Jack E. Sandlin (R-Indianapolis). “When you have people that are willing to stand up and make straw purchases, that’s a real big problem.”

Sandlin said throughout his career in law enforcement, he does not recall any cases he was personally involved in that would have involved straw purchasers.

Both DeLaney and Sandlin agree that when it comes to straw purchases, the people actually engaging in these types of transactions are a big part of problem.

“Straw purchases are interesting. It shows the lack of ingenuity on the part of these criminals,” DeLaney shared.

“So, if you buy that gun and you hand it off to someone else, you’re doing a straw purchase. You never intended to own that gun,” said Sandlin. “I think that people need to follow the law and I think we have to make sure that people are following the law.”

CBS4 asked both lawmakers whether they felt the statutes and regulations in Indiana were strict enough when it comes to gun laws in place to help prevent illegal activity like straw purchases from happening.

“No, we don’t have good enough regulations, we don’t want them. The majority wants to beat their chest and say we allow guns, and more guns means more safety,” said DeLaney. “I don’t see much hope in our general assembly doing anything on this problem.”

“Ultimately if we continue, and we will continue to allow people to buy handguns, this problem will continue,” he continued.

Sandlin disagreed.

“I think that we have good regulations and statutes on the book. The issue would be enforcement,” he said.

“If people know, you know, that there’s someone that’s engaging in straw purchases, certainly a tip to them could get them started in the direction of discovery,” said Sandlin.

Sandlin said he believes cooperation of citizens providing information to law enforcement would make a difference in approaching the problem of straw purchases and preventing guns ending up in the wrong hands.

Holmes and DeLaney both said they would personally like to see more conversations happening between the two states to address the concerns over firearms trafficking and straw purchases.

“The law enforcement and state legislators need to all work together in Illinois and Indiana,” said Holmes.

“We could learn by talking openly with the authorities in Illinois be it the police and the governor,” said DeLaney. He also added that these discussions should address how the neighboring states can help each other, while also helping themselves.

“Right now, we’re screaming over a fence at a neighbor whose face we can’t see, that’s what we’re doing,” DeLaney said.

Sandlin added, “Like anything we do in society, we have laws and people for the most part voluntarily comply with the laws and when people get outside of that for whatever reasons, financial gain, etcetera, we wouldn’t have any crime if people didn’t do that.”

He shared, however, that he has personally witnessed steps to prevent a potential illegal straw purchase from happening.

“I know of a situation personally where the owner of a gun shop would not make a sale because he had suspicions that it might be a straw purchase,” Sandlin shared.

When it comes back to the emotions in the Chicago community, Holmes said it’s disturbing any time they hear of something like what happened this weekend.

Through his own activism in the community, Holmes said he works to educate on the consequences of gun violence and take preventative measures to help people avoid ending up in the prison system, among several other initiatives. It’s something he’s been doing for many years, but at one point, his mission became even more personal.

“My daughter was shot and killed in the crossfire in Indianapolis,” Holmes said. “She lost her life, but in saying that I’ve been doing this work way before my daughter had moved to Indianapolis.”

Holmes said he understands the pain of losing a child to gun violence and that’s a big part of the reason he hopes solutions are reached when it comes to keeping guns out of the hands of individuals that are involved in these crimes and felons who aren’t able to purchase them in the first place.

“We have a lot of people that are being shot and killed from teenagers on up,” said Holmes. “These people who are paying them to go purchase these guns, they really don’t care, they really don’t give a damn if they find this gun, it ain’t on me.”

The suspect, Danzy, charged with conspiracy in the alleged straw purchase, will face a judge again Wednesday afternoon for a detention hearing.

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