Felons and Firearms: Text of Sheriff David Gee's Report on 'Operation Cease Fire’
Here’s the text of the report Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee made at a press conference Jan. 15, about the results of “Operation Cease Fire,” an undercover operation aimed at "taking guns out of the hands of violent felons."
Below is the prepared text from which Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee made his remarks at the Operation Cease Fire press conference on Tuesday, Jan. 15. The text of his speech was released by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.
It goes without saying that the recent shootings in our country have turned the topic of guns into a national conversation. But here at the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, we have never stopped focusing on one thing when it comes to this issue: taking guns out of the hands of violent felons.
In 2010, our agency formed a specialized gun squad out of our Special Investigations Division to focus solely on crimes involving guns and felons in possession of those firearms. The guns you see before you today are firearms confiscated by this exceptional group of detectives. Last year alone, our detectives bought 52 guns in undercover operations (41 of the 52 firearms were sold by 17 convicted felons).
In most cases, a tip about drugs will lead our undercover detectives to illegal guns and violent felons with guns, and in this latest case is no exception.
“Operation Cease Fire” began in July of 2012. It was a six month-long operation, ending now in a wave of arrests of convicted felons who sold guns and drugs across the street from an elementary school.
A confidential tip led our investigators to a consignment shop, that was once an old flower store. It operated across the street from Gibsonton Elementary school — less than 175 feet away from school grounds. The fact that our detectives busted a criminal enterprise next to an elementary school will translate to enhanced charges for the suspects involved.
During the course of the investigation, our undercover detectives made drug and gun transactions with the suspects inside this consignment shop. Our detectives put their lives on the line, knowing they were dealing with dangerous, armed felons. In one instance, a detective encountered unexpected gunfire when a suspect spontaneously fired his gun into the ground, to demonstrate the effectiveness of a silencer.
“Operation Cease Fire” resulted in the arrests of 10 people and the arrest warrants of three others. 10 are convicted felons who sold 29 firearms and 40 silencers to undercover detectives. The guns we removed from the streets include an AR-15, AK-47 style rifle, 22 caliber rifle with silencer, sawed-off shotguns, and sniper-type rifles with night vision. Detectives also purchased narcotic prescription drugs, crack cocaine, and methamphetamine.
Specialized undercover operations are just one part of the effort in getting guns out of the wrong hands. Our agency arrested 118 felons in possession of a firearm in 2012. The Sheriff's Office also arrested 80 people for unlawfully carrying concealed firearms. Deputies impounded more than 1,500 guns as evidence in some type of crime in 2012. The Sheriff's Office also plans to host a gun buyback program in five locations next month. Planning for that program has been underway since last year.
This also continues to be a life or death issue for law enforcement. We continually witness the same tragic tale of police officers killed in the line of duty by felons in possession of a firearm. Over the last three years in Florida, some very deadly ones for police officers, the statistics show nearly 85 percent of the cop killers are armed convicted felons. In 2012, and in 2010, 100 percent of the gunfire used to kill law enforcement officers came from convicted felons.
With the success of “Operation Cease Fire”, along with our other proactive measures, we remain steadfast in our commitment to take these dangerous guns off the streets, arrest armed felons, and break up these criminal enterprises, particularly when they are operating across the street from places like an elementary school in Hillsborough County.