This is the story of how a handgun that police recovered after a foot chase was linked to one of the biggest mass shootings in modern Chicago history.
It starts late last year, when people gathered at a house in Englewood to celebrate the life of a slain young man. An argument over a woman set off a shootout in the house that spilled outside, police said. Thirteen people were wounded at the house in the 5700 block of South May Street.
After the Dec. 22 shooting, Mayor Lori Lightfoot spoke at a hospital where six of the shooting victims were treated. She called it a “terrible tragedy and frankly an incredible act of cowardice” and said, “We can’t normalize this kind of behavior and tragedy in our city.”
On Dec. 30, Chicago police officers spotted a man walking on a sidewalk in Englewood with a black pistol grip sticking out of his coat pocket. The man ran, but the cops caught him after a short foot chase and said they recovered a loaded 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun.
Kameron Irvin, 21, pleaded guilty to illegal possession of a weapon and was sentenced to probation and 50 hours of community service. He wasn’t charged in connection with the Dec. 22 shooting but was at the scene, according to police records. He was wounded during the mass shooting.
Even though Irvin wasn’t accused of being one of the shooters, the police still wanted to know where he got the gun. So they worked with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to trace the ownership of the Smith & Wesson, as they do with thousands of weapons they recover every year.
They used a federal database called the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network to compare markings on bullets test-fired from the Smith & Wesson against millions of images of ballistic evidence from crime scenes across the country. That linked the gun to 13 expended bullet cartridges found at the scene of the Englewood mass shooting, authorities say.
According to ATF, the ballistics database has gotten more than 126,000 such “hits” across the country during its 23-year history.
The serial number on the gun was obliterated. But investigators still were able to recover it.
Criminals often use a grinder to erase the serial number from a gun. To recover it so the gun can be traced, lab technicians polish the surface and apply a corrosive solution, sometimes containing hydrochloric acid. That corrodes the area, now highlighting the previously vanished serial numbers because of the way they’d been punched into the metal.
Using that unique identifier, ATF officials searched firearms purchase records and found that a man named Eric Blackman had bought the gun at Eagle Sports Range in Oak Forest.