MILWAUKEE — A quiet night near Midtown Center was interrupted by a seemingly never-ending burst of gunfire earlier this year.
From the incident, Milwaukee Police collected a literal pile of evidence, 314 bullet casings.
The I-Team learned from those 314 casings, police were able to determine 51 different guns were used. They were also able to tie 17 of those casings to other shootings across the city.
Every gun makes a different marking on a casing, almost like a fingerprint. When a shell casing is recovered by police, the technicians at the Milwaukee Police Fusion Division enter the information into the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network or NIBIN.
MPD Sgt. Steve Stelter is in charge of eight NIBIN technicians that work around the clock. So far in 2021, they've logged 5,675 casings.
"We can link a specific group of individuals or a specific person to multiple crimes with this technology," Stelter said.
A match can give officers a lead to catch the culprit. It's what the NIBIN team is currently trying to help police do following the Midtown shooting.
"The guns that were at Midtown were also in 17 different ones that were also somewhere else," Stelter said.
"To fire 300 shots in a residential neighborhood had an impact on adults, on children and individuals even suffering from PTSD," said Reggie Moore, the director of violence prevention at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Two people were injured in the Midtown shooting, but Moore says incidents like that one can have far-reaching effects.
"I think it's important for people to appreciate that it's not just the impact of a shooting, but even shots fired," Moore said. "There's been research down to say that even a child hearing gunshots has an impact on their school performance."
Stelter told the I-Team they work 24 hours a day to process and log casings to help police catch the shooters. Each casing takes about an hour and a half to log.
For the 314 found at Midtown, that meant about 19 and a half days of work, around the clock.
The long hours do payoff.
Last November, police collected 10 45-caliber rounds after a man fired shots in the air following an altercation near the city's tow lot on Lincoln Avenue.
A month later, a day before Christmas Eve, shots were fired at the Serenity Funeral Home and a 17-year-old was injured. Police collected seven more 45-caliber casings.
But officers did not have an arrest until a Racine County Sheriff's deputy pulled over Broderick Summerville, and collected the 45-caliber Glock pistol he was allegedly illegally carrying.
"They contacted us, they brought the firearm to us, we did a test fire on it and that firearm was linked to the two previous incidents," Stelter said.
Summerville now faces several felony charges.
Milwaukee Police help other agencies process shell casings when they can. Their work is in high demand.
"We want to help all of our partners. We take their firearms and scene casings on a case-by-case basis. We are the only machine right now that I'm aware of in the state of Wisconsin," Stelter said.
Stelter says there are plans to bring on another NIBIN system into the department to help with the demand.