CHICAGO (WLS) -- A federal agent wounded in the line of duty early Friday was part of a specialized unit aimed at intercepting illegal gun shipments to Chicago.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm's Gun Crime Strike Force was formed last June in response to a surge in Chicago shootings, many of them directed by street gangs.
The special ATF team began slowly, with federal officers recruited from around the nation to report to Chicago. Task-force staffing has now ramped up to 40 law enforcement agents, about half from ATF and half deployed by Chicago police.
The task force has been focused on getting assault-style rifles out of the hands of street gang members. Many of those weapons smuggled into the city limits from out of state.
In the past year there have been nearly 200 shootings and dozens of murders in the Back of the Yards neighborhood by gang members armed with rifles; rifle shot victims including some police officers. But investigators say the two shots fired this morning-wounding that ATF agent-were not from a rifle.
The I-Team was recently allowed inside ATF's gun vault, where confiscated weapons are stored. Many of them are kept there while authorities prepare for prosecutions.
The investigations are painstaking and frequently happen overnight. Friday's shooting occurred at 3:15 a.m.
The task force was developed by ATF special agent in charge, Celinez Nunez. She is a Chicago native, who met with the I-Team last year and talked about development of the strike force.
"We wanted something that could have a major impact in Chicago, with our Chicago police partners," Nunez said. "So the concept came together where we decided to put our crime gun intelligence center, housed together with two enforcement groups. Hence, why we brought in the 20 agents from around the country. To create the Chicago crime gun strike force."
At the scene of Friday morning's shooting, attention turned to whoever opened fire on the task force. There is a tremendous manhunt underway for the shooter and the weapon.
If authorities find the gun that was used, among the things that the task force will do is run that gun against known crimes to see if it was, indeed, used previously in shootings.
That crime gun analysis is a staple of the task force: linking seized guns to other crimes.
On Friday, that function has new urgency - to find the gun and the person who shot it at one of their own.
ATF agent shot in Chicago was on special strike force to battle guns
An ABC7 I-Team Investigation