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KCMO family of shooting victims, ATF push to get illegal guns off streets

Prince Pettiford and his grandmother
Posted at 5:00 AM, Oct 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-03 11:06:02-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Federal investigators believe there are more than 2,000 stolen and illegal guns floating around in the Kansas City area.

KSHB 41 wanted to know what’s being done to get those weapons off the streets.

In an exclusive sit down with KSHB 41 anchor Kevin Holmes, the head of the Kansas City Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives explains what his department is doing to enforce gun laws and bring justice to grieving families.

Holmes also spoke with the family of victims who've been impacted by gun violence.

This includes a grandmother who's now tasked with taking care of her grandson, after he was nearly killed alongside his mother and her boyfriend in February.

Minutes after arriving at Carolyn Pettiford’s home, you’ll know a superhero lives there.

There’s a batman bike in the backyard, and while he may only be five years old, Pettiford says her grandson isn’t your typical toddler.

“He’s a very intelligent five-year-old with a lot of questions," Pettiford said

Prince’s mother, and her boyfriend were shot and killed. Prince was also shot.

“My grandson now, he’s blind in one eye,” Pettiford said. “Well, he doesn’t have a right eye. They took his eye.”

The ATF believes the gun used in this crime was stolen.

Fred Winston, special agent in charge with the ATF, is working to get every one of them off the streets. He’s been in charge of the local bureau for about a year now.

The KC Bureau of the ATF estimates more than 2,500 illegal guns are out there that have been used during a violent crime, like Prince’s mother.

Earlier in the year, ATF agents seized more than two dozen stolen guns. Many of them taken from entertainment districts across the Kansas City area.

“Westport, 18th and Vine and Power and Light," John Ham, a spokesman with the ATF, said describing where agents have retrieved guns. “They were hitting dance clubs.”

Investigators say they often target places where people can’t take a gun inside and say there’s a chance when those guns are left in cars, the gun owners are unknowingly tipping off the crooks.

“People are proud of their guns,” Winston said. “And they advertise them a lot. They have their glock stickers or whatever, sig stickers on their cars and criminals are ingenious.”

One way the ATF works with local police departments and other agencies to get illegal guns off the streets is via the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBN).

It’s an exclusive program that traces everything from shell casing numbers to the type of gun used in a crime. Then, authorities compare images of ballistic evidence from all crime scenes.

It’s kind of a home base for all local police agencies to work with the ATF in the tracking of stolen guns and linking criminal to multiple scenes.

“We get a scene where “Fred” was linked to this shooting,” Winston said. “Fred was linked to that shooting. That’s someone we need to be looking at because Fred appears to be involved in a lot of crime in the city.”

It’s believed the gun used in killing Pettiford’s daughter, and her boyfriend was obtained illegally. That weapon is now off the streets, and in this ATF database.

“Every stolen gun becomes a threat,” Ham said. “Realistically, every stolen gun is a gun that may very well end up in a violent crime, or at least in the hands of somebody not allowed by federal law to possess it.”

While members of law enforcement are doing what they can to try and enforce the gun laws, Carolyn Pettiford is now facing her toughest job to date — raise her grandson, while keeping his mom’s legacy alive.

“He’s a pretty strong kid,” she said. "But he has his moments. He misses his mom. He’ll say, 'Nana I miss my mom.' And he’ll tell me, 'I want to go to heaven.' I’ll say, 'When it’s your time to go to heaven, you’ll see your mama again. But right now, we’re gonna stay down here and play, okay?' And he’ll be like, 'Okay, okay.'”

A recent study suggests if a criminal uses a gun to commit two crimes, there’s a 50% chance a third shooting will occur within 90 days.

It’s part of the reasons investigators constantly say if you see something, say something.

As for the man accused of killing Pettiford’s daughter and her boyfriend — he has a court date set for Jan. 23, 2023.