CHICAGO — A dip in Labor Day violence can be chalked up to police saturation, community events and targeted operations — including the arrest of an Arkansas man who trafficked hundreds of guns to city gangs, according to police.
At least 110 guns were seized by officers over the holiday weekend that saw 7 killed and 42 wounded in shootings, police officials said at a Tuesday press conference. The number of shooting victims is down this Labor Day weekend, after the same weekend last year saw 13 killed 51 wounded — including 9 killed on Labor Day 2016 alone.
Gun seizures, as well as investigations targeting 170 individuals, helped keep shootings down, said First Deputy Supt. Kevin Navarro. An extra 1,300 officers patrolled the streets this weekend, the department said. More guns were seized this weekend than the same weekend last year, and officers recovered more guns than the department's average of one gun per hour, he said.
"It's not a victory. This is progress in the right direction," Navarro said. "We really couldn't do this without the officers that are out there 24/7."
Police recovered a number of assault weapons, including an AK-47 and an AR-15, the department said. Some of those assault weapons were recovered through a sting operation that lead to the arrest of an Arkansas man who has trafficked "hundreds" of guns into the city, said Anthony Riccio, chief of the department's organized crime bureau.
Police learned in April that Klint Kelley, of Malvern, Ark., had been running guns to gang members on the South Side, Riccio said. An investigation resulted in Kelley selling 21 guns to a felon cooperating with authorities in three separate purchases, including the assault weapons, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
On Sunday, Kelley, 27, was arrested in suburban Chicago Ridge, where a convicted felon arranged to buy eight guns off the man for a total of $7,000, Riccio said. The person bought six assault weapons, one shot gun and one pistol, Riccio said.
Previous purchases were made in a United Center parking lot on July 3 and in suburban Frankfort on April 3, he said.
The gun trafficker, whose name was not released, had formerly lived in Chicago and had contacts with South Side gang members, police said. He bought guns through trade shows and online forums like Facebook and took pains to keep his name off gun registration lists.
"He knew ultimately his guns would be used for crimes in Chicago and he didn't want his name to be part of the list of owners," Riccio said.
The man has been charged with gun trafficking in federal court and is being arraigned Tuesday, police said.
The trafficking case highlights the struggle to keep powerful guns off the streets and the dangers police face in recovering them. But First Deputy Navarro said the department's strategies this weekend showed promise.
"I think actually all year's been a turning point," Navarro said. "We've had some great declines in crime, especially in the last few months. We're going to use that as a stepping stone."