ATF, APD test-firing 1,500+ guns to try and link them with suspects in unsolved violent crimes

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Police Department has a large backlog of guns in evidence that need testing.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has partnered with APD for a solution.

They want to test-fire more than 1,500 guns already tied to at least one crime to see if they can be tied to other crimes, and to suspects in unsolved violent crimes, Atlanta Police Deputy Chief Charles Hampton Jr. tells Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Mark Winne.

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ATF Atlanta Field Division Special Agent in Charge Ben Gibbons said the initiative involves ATF’s National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN), where agents can quickly test fired cartridge casings from guns recovered off the streets during crimes against a database of cartridge casings recovered from thousands of crime scenes to see if a match can be developed.

“Each firearm will leave its own unique fingerprint, per se, on a shell casing,” Gibbons said.

Gibbons said the team handling the test-firing is the NIBIN enforcement team (NET). Their job combines using technology and helping detectives in Fulton and DeKalb counties with street-level investigations to bring previously unidentified gunmen to justice.

“The NIBIN team - they utilize science and technology to develop leads direct to them toward those trigger-pullers within the communities and then they go out and do investigations,” Gibbons said.

ATF Senior Special Agent Brian Moore said guns in evidence very often have a person’s name already tied to them, giving investigators a big lead once a match has been made between a gun and an unsolved crime through NIBIN.


“We hope to get 30 - 40% with NIBIN leads with these guns,” Moore said.

“So we could be talking about hundreds of suspects?” Winne asked.

“Yes sir,” Moore responded.

Sgt. Carlos Maldonado says his APD job is investigating every non-fatal, non-domestic shooting in the city.

“My detectives will be able to follow up the information and hopefully develop enough probable cause to the point where we can get an arrest on the case,” Maldonado said.

He said ATF has even paid for the test-fire ammo so far.

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“Ammunition costs are rising, and for them to come in and provide that cost for us was a huge blessing,” Maldonado said.

“Is APD leveraging about every option it can think of to get things moving on the violent crime front?” Winne asked.

“That’s exactly right,” Hampton responded. “Our mayor, as he is tough on crime, and so are we, we have to be innovative - thinking outside the box.”

Agent Moore said the NIBIN task force plans to be test-firing for a total of two weeks.

He said some suspects charged out of this initiative will likely be charged on the local level and some federally.