INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WTHR) – The guns used to kill two Indiana police officers in shootings in Lebanon and Terre Haute this year were purchased from gun shops by women who lied to buy them.
The Taurus PT709 9 mm handgun used to kill Boone County Deputy Jacob Pickett was purchased by 29-year-old Dawn Rochon on February 28, 2017 at Indy Gun Bunker on Post Road in Indianapolis.
United States Attorney Josh Minkler says Rochon bought four guns last year at the same gun store, and three of them have been used in crimes and recovered by police.
Detectives are still investigating how accused killer Anthony Baumgardt obtained the 9 mm handgun that was used to kill Deputy Pickett on March 2 in Lebanon.
"We will never recover from this,” said Boone County Sheriff Mike Nielson Monday at a news conference at the U.S. Attorney’s office in Indianapolis. “We will try to get back to what that new normal is going to be. But until you stand in an administrator's shoes and lose somebody underneath your watch, you have no idea how it affects us."
Rochon faces eight federal counts of false statements with a potential 10-year sentence.
Minkler says Rochon lied when she listed her residence at two units in the eastside Hawthorne Apartments.
"Each time she went to the Indy Gun Bunker to purchase a gun she lied on the form which is required to purchase a gun,” said Minkler. “Each time she did that, those lies were material. Had she told the truth they would not have allowed her to purchase the gun."
Indy Gun Bunker did not respond our request for an interview.
On May 5 in Terre Haute, Police Officer Rob Pitts was shot and killed with a Taurus PT24/7 9 mm handgun purchased by Tiffany Dean.
Dean admitted in the criminal complaint to buying the gun for her brother Levi Brenton, who at 19-years-old was too young to purchase the gun.
Brenton said he then sold the gun for $350 to Christopher Wolfe, who died in the shootout with police that also killed Officer Pitts.
Dean is charged with making a false statement in the purchase of a firearm.
Brenton is charged with selling a firearm to an unlawful drug user, possession of a firearm by an unlawful drug user, and conspiracy to provide false statements during the purchase of a firearm.
"Anybody that introduces guns into the underground economy in violation of federal law must be held accountable,” said Minkler. “The shootings must stop."
The police officer shootings are two deadly examples of ‘lie and buy’ or straw purchases of guns, which 13 Investigates reported on three years ago.
"The illegal gun use, the illegal gun possession, the illegal gun acquisition and transfer - as we have seen today - has a direct link to gun violence, often with tragic results,” said Minkler.
In a ‘lie and buy’ or straw purchase, people buy guns at stores, lie on the paperwork, then resell those firearms to convicted felons or others who cannot legally possess them.
Minkler believes strict enforcement of federal gun laws can reduce gun violence.
But in Indianapolis, police have already investigated 63 murders and 182 non-fatal shootings.
"Your question should be, ‘Well, why hasn't it worked yet? How come we haven't seen the reductions this year?’ I think we will,” said Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Chief Bryan Roach. “I'm confident that we will. It's about keeping guns out of the hands of people who should not possess them."
Indianapolis has a violent crime rate 2.5 times above the national average and a homicide rate 4.5 times the national average.
The charges announced Monday are part of an initiative the U.S. Attorney started back in January.
Since then, federal prosecutors have charged 117 people through Project Safe Neighborhoods.
The project is aimed at prosecuting those who carry guns illegally.
United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions is calling on all U.S. attorneys across the country to step up efforts to reduce crime through Project Safe Neighborhoods, which includes outreach, prevention and enforcement initiatives.