A drug investigation by New York City's special narcotics prosecutor uncovered an interstate gun trafficking probe that netted more than 250 firearms -- the biggest seizure in city history and a haul Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday saved countless lives.
Suspects in the drug probe were bringing in firearms to Chinatown by bus from North and South Carolina and selling them to a broker who was actually an undercover NYPD officer, according to Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and other law enforcement officials at a Manhattan news conference on Monday.
"Thanks to the undercover officer in this case and the efforts of the NYPD firearms investigation unit and prosecutors," Kelly said, "instead of being used in crimes, these guns are now out of commission."
The announcement of the big gun bust was also used by Bloomberg to justify NYPD street tactics after it was revealed in a wiretap that one of the major traffickers in the case said police stop-and-frisk activity had made it more difficult to sell weapons.
"Generally, it is believed by law enforcement people that without this tactic the bad guys would feel a lot more comfortable in carrying guns," Bloomberg said. "They carried guns before. They are not carrying guns now."
Nineteen people were indicted in the case, including alleged ring leaders Walter Walker, 29, of Sanford, N.C., and Earl Campbell, 23, of Rock Hill, S.C. Also charged was Adedji Omole, 30, formerly of Brooklyn and now in jail in Maryland. Omole worked in Brooklyn as a broker for Walker and Campbell's operations, police said.
Walker and Campbell are fighting extradition to New York, authorities said.
It was Campbell, said Bloomberg, who expressed concern about the NYPD and was taped saying he could not take the guns to his house, "to my side of town cause I'm in Brownsville. See we got like, whatchamacallit, stop and frisk."
A federal judge ruled on Aug. 12 that the NYPD's stop-and-frisk tactics were unconstitutional and appointed a special monitor to oversee reforms in the procedures.
The 522-count indictment charged the defendants with an assortment of conspiracy and criminal sale of weapons. Some 208 weapons were purchased for about $160,000 between September 2012 and July 2013, officials noted. Arraignment information wasn't available late Monday.
Weapons seized included .22-caliber pistols, seven assault rifles, a Cobray 9 mm machine gun and various 9 mm handguns. Officials said that 36 of the weapons had been reported stolen. Historically, one of the largest gun seizures occurred in 2008 in Mexico when police reportedly took in 540 weapons from drug traffickers.