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Friday, April 15, 2005
5 Held in Gang-Related Shootings; Computer System Helped Crack Case
By T.J. Wilham
Journal Staff Writer
Federal and local authorities have arrested five suspects and are looking for three others in connection with six gang-related shootings on Albuquerque's southeast side.
Authorities said a federal and local task force, two city police forensic scientists and a $250,000 computer system helped crack the case.
Two people sustained minor injuries in the shootings that occurred between December and March.
Authorities would not identify whom they have in custody or whom they are looking for. They said they are withholding the names until all suspects are in custody.
Court records related to the shootings have been sealed.
Police did say some of the suspects in custody are gang members, who they believe were protecting their "turf."
The computer system, National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, was donated to Albuquerque police in 2002 by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
APD forensic scientists say this is the first major case that has been solved using the system, which contains more than 1,700 samples of cartridge casings and bullets.
Data from bullets and cartridge casings collected in the shootings were entered in the system. The results then showed the shootings were related.
"(This system) is a great tool," said Kim Haag, an APD forensic scientist. "This is only the tip of the iceberg. As we get more data into the database, hits are going to roll in. Before, five or six different detectives would have been sent in five or six different directions because we didn't know that the crimes were related."
Once police determined the six shootings were related, investigators assigned to the Violent Crime Impact Team started tracking down leads.
The federally funded team, which has been credited for the city's reduction in homicides, is made up of investigators from ATF, Drug Enforcement Administration, the state probation department and APD.
"Without all of these resources, this may have taken much longer to solve," said Wayne Dixie, resident agent in charge of the ATF Albuquerque office. "This is a classic example of what resources and teamwork amongst law enforcement agencies can do for a community."