By Becky Jacobs Post-Tribune, Merrillville, Ind.
GARY, Ind. — Federal charges were filed Friday against two men in connection with an undercover operation Thursday in Gary that turned into a shootout, injuring an ATF agent and leaving another man dead. One of the suspects is in custody and the other remained at large as of late Friday.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent, who was not identified “due to the nature of his work,” was shot in the chest and arm, Special Agent in Charge Celinez Nunez, of the ATF’s Chicago Field Division, said.
“He is going to make a full recovery,” Nunez said.
Raymon Truitt II, 28, “was killed in the exchange of gunfire,” U.S. Attorney Thomas Kirsch II said. The Lake County coroner’s office ruled Truitt’s death a homicide caused by gunshot wounds. His address was unknown with the coroner’s office, and Lake County court records list recent addresses in Hammond and Merrillville.
Prosecutors filed charges Friday in Hammond’s federal court against Blake King, 19, of Chicago, and Bernard Graham, 25, of Calumet City, in connection with the shooting. The charges include assaulting an ATF agent and using a weapon in the commission of a crime, according to charging documents.
King had an initial appearance Friday, court records show. He appears in court again Thursday for a detention hearing and will be appointed a public defender, according to court records.
Kirsch said that the “maximum potential penalties for those offenses is life imprisonment.”
“We will shortly be seeking indictments from a federal grand jury which may or may not include additional charges,” Kirsch said.
Read the criminal complaint charging two men in shootout with ATF agent in Gary »
King and a Dolton, Ill., man, who has not been charged, were in federal custody Friday, U.S. Attorney Thomas Krisch said.
Graham remained at large Friday morning, and the ATF is offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information leading to his arrest, according to Nunez.
“Bernard Graham is an armed criminal. He is dangerous, and he was one of the four suspects involved in yesterday’s shooting,” Nunez said.
Graham is described as 5 feet 7 inches tall, 190 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. Anyone with information is asked to call the ATF at 1-800-283-4867 or email email@example.com.
Federal authorities looking for Bernard Graham, one of the men reportedly involved in Gary shooting. #PostTrib pic.twitter.com/1grWpCT7nH
— Craig Lyons (@craigalyons) June 8, 2018
“The alleged actions of these defendants is atrocious and if convicted, we will seek severe consequences in the form of very lengthy prison sentences for their conduct,” Kirsch said.
The shootout occurred after two undercover ATF agents went with a confidential informant to a house on Kentucky Avenue with the intention to purchase firearms, Kirsch said. The operation began on the south side of Chicago, continued to Lansing, Ill., and ended in Gary, he said.
The Dolton man was “attempting to illegally sell handguns to an ATF informant” operating out of the Little Village area of Chicago, Kirsch said. Truitt was the Dolton man’s firearm provider, according to Kirsch.
“He lives in Indiana, bro, there’s more guns floating around there then(sic) there is with us, bro,” the Dolton man texted the confidential informant in court records.
The confidential informant and the Dolton man texted in the days leading up to the arranged purchase Thursday, a criminal complaint shows. The Dolton man sent photos of three semi-automatic pistols, “one of which appeared to be loaded with an extended magazine and another with an attached flashlight,” the complaint states.
The two agreed to meet in the parking lot of a Hooters restaurant in Lansing Thursday morning, according to the complaint. The informant and the two undercover ATF agents followed the Dolton man and arrived at the house on Kentucky Avenue shortly before noon, the complaint states. Truitt, Graham and King were waiting out front, according to the complaint.
The Dolton man introduced the informant to Truitt as the undercover agents waited in a vehicle, and the informant said he had $2,000 to purchase the firearms, according to court documents. “Graham then lifted his shirt and displayed to the informant an unknown caliber firearm in the waistline of his pants,” the complaint states. “Truitt asked the informant where the money was.”
The informant went to the undercover agents and retrieved money before returning to the men outside of the house, according to the complaint.
King handed the informant a bag, the complaint states, and the informant asked, “What’s in here?”
“The guns … what you want,” King said in the complaint.
The informant placed the bag on the ground and unzipped it to see inside, according to authorities.
“The bag contained kitchen pots and pans,” Kirsch said.
King pulled the informant’s shirt over his head as Truitt and Graham fired at the ATF agents in the vehicle, the complaint states.
“The conduct of these defendants is completely intolerable,” Kirsch said. “Two of them opened fire on undercover federal agents who were sitting in a car in the middle of the day in a residential neighborhood.
Kirsch said it was unknown Friday whether the suspects knew they were firing at ATF agents.
“Even before the shooting of an ATF officer, these defendants fully intended to engage in illegal traffic of firearms, which were being purchased in Indiana and possibly transported to Illinois,” Kirsch said. “This has got to stop.”
Graham, Truitt and the Dolton man are convicted felons, Kirsch said.
Graham was arrested in 2016 for aggravated battery to peace officer and attempted vehicle hijacking, Cook County court records show. Graham was given two years of probation for the aggravated battery charge, according to court records. In 2013, Graham was charged in Cook County with unlawful possession of a gun, a misdemeanor, court records show. He pleaded and was sentenced to 30 days in the Cook County Jail, according to records.
Truitt was convicted of battery resulting in serious bodily injury in 2017 and attempted battery by means of a deadly weapon in 2014, Lake County court records show.
“Convicted felons cannot possess firearms,” Kirsch said. “The law is very clear and easy to follow on this point.
Prosecutors have determined, though, that a three-car crash Thursday at 21st Avenue and Broadway in Gary is “unrelated” to the shooting, he said.
Kirsch said his office will continue to work with Nunez and the ATF, as well as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois John Lausch, who was also at the press conference Friday in Hammond.
“We will never tolerate gun violence and will never stop doing all that we can to defeat it,” Kirsch said.
©2018 the Post-Tribune (Merrillville, Ind.)