ATLANTA - Federal investigators say the handgun used to kill a police officer in Omaha, Nebraska was traced back to a Georgia pawn shop.
“Preliminary autopsy results show Officer Orozco died from a gunshot wound to the upper chest just above the ballistic vest line,” said a somber Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer shortly after the shooting.
Last May, Officer Kerrie Orozco died in a gun battle with assault suspect Marcus Wheeler while helping serve an arrest warrant.
“The community really, really wants good officers with good hearts, and I believe that she was one of those officers,” said Omaha community activist Barbara Robinson.
Wheeler also died in the shootout. Federal agents recently traced the 9-mm pistol he used to Arrowhead Pawn shop on Tara Boulevard in Clayton County. Wheeler’s girlfriend, Jalita Johnson, now faces federal charges. Court documents show Johnson told agents, “Wheeler provided her with the money to purchase the firearm,” and “While Johnson was in the pawn shop, Wheeler sent Johnson several text messages indicating what to purchase.”
The Feds call that a “straw-purchase,” because as a convicted felon, Wheeler can’t legally own a gun.
“This netted the worst possible scenario,” said ATF Atlanta Field Division Assistant Special Agent in Charge Aladino Ortiz.
Ortiz told Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant that single gun “straw purchases” can be tough to prevent, especially at high volume dealers like Arrowhead Pawn.
“Could they do a better job of possibly identifying straw purchasers early? Yes,” Ortiz said. “In some cases Arrowhead Pawn has been up front.”
Ortiz told Diamant Arrowhead is cooperating in this case, but its owner refused to speak with Diamant on camera Wednesday. Nor did anyone come to the door when Diamant stopped by Johnson’s Clayton County apartment.
Media outlets in New York have reported that the gun used to kill two NYPD officers last year also traced back to Arrowhead Pawn, though that gun was bought legally in 1996. Investigators are still tracking down how many times it changed hands since then.