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King County receives $500,000 grant to help solve gun crimes

The U.S. Justice Department awarded King County at $500,000 a Project Safe Neighborhood grant to focus on solving gun crime.  (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE - Finding links between unsolved shootings will get a boost from a $500,000 federal grant announced on Thursday by the U.S. Attorney for Western Washington.

The U.S. Justice Department awarded a Project Safe Neighborhood grant to focus on solving gun crime. The grant will provide funding for a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney to review every firearms case in King County to see if it is appropriate for federal prosecution.

The focus will also be finding connections between shooting incidents in South King and Pierce Counties, and improve intelligence sharing between law enforcement and prosecutors, so guns can be linked to specific crimes.

Every bullet that’s fired, every shell casing it came from, has a ballistic fingerprint left by the gun.

Since 1999, that evidence has been stored in The National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, known as NIBIN. It’s a database used by law enforcement to connect ballistic fingerprints to specific guns.

The U.S. Attorney’s office said NIBIN partners have captured approximately 2.8 million images of ballistic evidence. But, the sharing of the information could be more efficient.

The federal grant will also go toward improving that sharing between local law enforcement and prosecutors.

“We are able to focus on those guns and the people who are using those guns and causing damage in our communities,” said Hayes.

Project Safe Neighborhoods helps local law enforcement by providing money and tools police can use to prosecute gun crimes.

“Even if we don’t' know who has that gun, we can follow it around until we find it in someone's possession and that can help us work backward and solve crimes we otherwise could never have solved,” said King County Prosecutor Dan Satterburg.

On June 28, 2016, a Department of Corrections officer was shot in Auburn in an attempt to arrest Robert Hall, who the U.S. Attorney said was involved in several shootings in multiple jurisdictions. Using NIBIN, prosecutors said they were able to connect the gun in Hall’s possession to the shootings.

“We had nine different shooting incidents with the same gun involved over two years,” said Hayes. “We clearly targeted that and we wanted to find out who was behind that gun and when we went to arrest that individual that's the person who went ahead and took shots at the police.”

Hall has a trial date in March.

On May 5 2017, eight shots were fired at people standing in a Jack in the Box parking lot on Rainier Avenue in Seattle. It happened at a time where there were several high-profile drive-by shootings.

Nicholas Pines was arrested in connection to that shooting and charged in King County with unlawful possession of a firearm.

Court documents said the gun found in the car connected to Pines was used in shootings in Renton, Tukwila and unincorporated King County. The links were made by using NIBIN.

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