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Following the journey from legal gun purchase to illegal use in Milwaukee

Posted at 11:55 AM, Nov 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-20 23:27:19-05

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee police, on average, remove a gun from the streets of Milwaukee every three hours. Some are stolen, some are later connected to crimes.

Charles Benson followed the journey of one gun from legal buy to illegal use.

Captain Craig Sarnow runs the crime fighting division. It's where police monitor cameras throughout the city, keep an eye on social media and listen to shots fired on city streets with what's known as ShotSpotter. It's a busy place, but not as busy as the streets of Milwaukee.

Our journey begins at 18th and Windlake in February 2017.

"It was discovered that there was a forced entry. Numerous items were taken including some money and a 40 caliber Glock semi automatic pistol," said Capt. Sarnow.

Police say the Glock was legally purchased at a gun store in Franklin. A stolen gun report was made and the serial number was recorded.

It would be another 18 months before the gun or clues about the gun popped up on police radar.

In August of 2018, police responded to Appleton and Capitol.

"When they get on scene there's no victim, no witness, there's nobody around," said Capt. Sarnow.

But they found three casings.

Benson: What could you learn from those casings?

Sarnow: Anytime we recover a casing or multiple casings, those casings are taken down to our fusion division.

Back inside the fusion division is Mike Perez. He's a forensics ballistic specialist. He walked us through the process of finding the markers or fingerprints on a bullet after it's fired from a gun.

"Just the detail, getting to the absolute fingerprint of a bullet and how each one looks so different, just like our fingerprints," said Benson.

So what about those casings found in August?

No match. No new leads.

But our journey of a gun doesn't end here. We now go to New Year's Eve of 2018.

Police were called to 21st and Mineral for a subject with a gun. It turned to be a 40 caliber Glock - semi automatic pistol.

"When they ran this serial number, low and behold, it lists back to the gun that was stolen now in February 2017 from the burglary," said Sarnow.

Bingo. Nearly two years later the stolen gun was recovered and police determined it's the same gun that fired those bullets a few months ago.

Thomas White was arrested and convicted of possession of a firearm by a felon, but it's not case closed yet.

"We want to learn about the individual who had this gun," said Sarnow, "How he came into possession of the stolen gun."

Police later learned White got the gun from another felon, Alexander McHenry, who facilitated the illegal gun purchase.

Now it's mission accomplished..

"We've recovered a stolen gun," said Capt. Sarnow, "It's not in the hands of a convicted felon."

And that's the journey of just one gun.

But get this, in the last 10 years Milwaukee police tell TMJ4 they have removed or recovered more than 25,000 guns from the streets for a variety of reasons.

And this year alone half the people suspected in non-fatal and fatal shootings were convicted felons.

Guns removed from streets of Milwaukee year-to-year from MPD:

2019: 2159 (as of 9/30)
2018: 2911
2017: 2760
2016: 2422
2015: 2506
2014: 2291 + 352 from a gun buyback this year.
2013: 1922
2012: 1983
2011: 1973
2010: 2118
2009: 2344