AG Merrick Garland meets with top law enforcement officials in Chicago with launch of 'strike force'

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Friday, July 23, 2021
AG Garland meets with top local law enforcement officials
It's day two of Attorney General Merrick Garland's trip to Chicago.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- US Attorney General Merrick Garland continues his visit in Chicago Friday as a new federal task force to help crackdown on illegal gun trafficking.

Garland went to the Dirksen Federal Building in the Loop to sit down with U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois John Lausch.

Their meeting was closed to the media, but a camera was briefly allowed inside before Garland sat down with the FBI, the ATF, the DEA and leadership from the U.S. Marshals Service as well as Superintendent David Brown and a representative from the Cook County Sheriff's Office. The meeting also included a video briefing with Illinois-area strike force teams.

Garland made a quick statement saying they're going to be talking about that strike force and their plan to disrupt regional gun trafficking in the area.

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"I'm not here from Washington to tell you what to do," Garland said at the meeting. "I'm here from Washington to find out what we can do to help you and cooperation among all these agencies that I'm seeing around me are the key for this to work, so I hope we have a productive set of meetings about how we can work together with each other and what we can do to help."

Attorney General Merrick Garland was in Chicago ahead of senidng a strike force ot the city to target illegal gun traffickers.

On Thursday, Garland arrived in Chicago. He met with CPD, getting a behind the scenes look at the local crime fighting effort. He also met with community leaders.

His visit to launch the strike teams coinciding on Thursday with three separate mass shootings from the night before.

A total of 18 people were shot, 10 of them in the Lawndale neighborhood. One of them, 15-year-old Damarion Benson, died from his injuries.

Police are now questioning three people of interest in two of those mass shootings.

Garland said that the violence in Chicago is a terrible tragedy. He said the federal government is here to help.

On Thursday, Garland also went to St. Agatha Church to meet with community groups working to stop criminal activity.

"Community support, trust, is what help police," he said. "Police help community trust."

Garland noted the shooting of two ATF agents and a CPD officer in June. The strike force will coordinate efforts not only go after guns, but the source of them and those who traffic them to Chicago.

"This is a long term effort, there's not a short term infusion of resources, this is a long term coordinated, multi-jurisdictional cross jurisdictional effort and that's the critical piece that we all can do coming together," said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco.

The strike forces will not bring in any additional resources, but seek to leverage existing one and better coordinate efforts across jurisdictions to track guns coming into Chicago from out of state. Still, Mayor Lori Lightfoot called it a game changer.

"If you pick up a gun, if you shoot into a crowd, not only are we going to find you, we are going to take you to federal court. We are going to ship you off to South Dakota and you will never see your family again. So, the choice is yours," she said.

"That is the real benefit of this collaboration is that we are not just focused on Chicago, we can go find and trace these guns so that we can hold them accountable," said CPD Supt. David Brown.