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Feds announce crackdown on violent crime in Twin Cities

With more than 650 carjackings in Minneapolis in 2021 and shootings at record rates, U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said every prosecutor in his office will now handle violent crime cases in addition to their other work. They’ll also hire new attorneys who will join in new efforts to aggressively pursue federal charges in carjacking, armed robbery, firearms and gang cases.

FEDS CRIME ANNOUNCEMENT
Minnesota U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger, center, announces on Tuesday, May 3, 2022 his office's plans to ramp up prosecution of violent crime. With him are, from left: Minneapolis Interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman, ATF St. Paul office Special Agent in Charge William McCrary and FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Paul.
Alex Derosier / Forum News Service
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MINNEAPOLIS — Federal prosecutors are shifting their primary focus to tackling violent crime as the Twin Cities face an increase in shootings and carjackings, Minnesota U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger announced Tuesday, May 3.

With more than 650 carjackings in Minneapolis in 2021 and shootings at record highs, Luger said the more criminal prosecutors in his office will now handle violent crime cases in addition to their other work. They also hope to hire five to eight new attorneys who will join the current 40 criminal prosecutors in new efforts to aggressively pursue federal charges in carjacking, armed robbery, firearms and gang cases.

“A few years ago most of us never used the term carjacking. A few years ago there were so few carjackings that law enforcement barely even tracked the crime,” Luger said Tuesday during a news conference at the Minneapolis federal courthouse. “Everything has changed, now they happen in broad daylight and with premeditation. Carjackings are often brutal, threatening the lives of victims.”

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension will begin bringing all adult carjacking cases to federal prosecutors, Luger said. Convicted carjackers will face time in federal prison. As part of the U.S. Attorney’s Office violent crime announcement, Luger said prosecutors had recently filed federal charges in a particularly brutal carjacking case where the suspect had kidnapped and beat a person with a hammer and later set another suspect on fire with alcohol in an attempt to wake him from a fatal fentanyl overdose.

To address the issue of gang violence, Luger is also creating a specific unit to work directly with law enforcement in cracking down on “the most violent criminals” who are involved in gangs.

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The U.S. attorney in his announcement was joined by federal and local enforcement officials from agencies including the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, and the Minnesota BCA.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Paul said the Minneapolis office is working closely with city police and is using the Hobbs Act to go after armed robbers on federal charges. The Hobbs Act bans robbery that interferes with interstate commerce, and is a typical path for federal authorities to establish jurisdiction in a case.

Federal prosecutors will also ramp up efforts against firearms law violators, as many of the shootings in Minnesota cities and surrounding areas involve illegally obtained or modified weapons. Criminals are often already felons prohibited from owning guns, and some of the shootings have involved firearms illegally converted into fully automatic weapons using an illegal part or switch called an auto sear.

ATF Special Agent in Charge William McCrary, who leads the agency’s St. Paul field office, said the ATF has already identified violent offenders across the state and said greater emphasis on federal violent crime prosecution will enable his office to effectively go after them.

Luger highlighted some recently unsealed federal firearms violation cases. In one, a Sauk Rapids man arrested in June 2021 for making threats and firing a weapon in Stearns County was making untraceable “ghost guns” and selling large quantities of guns in the Twin Cities, prosecutors allege.

In February, federal prosecutors charged a 23-year-old Minneapolis man with possession of a machine gun after agents intercepted a package containing parts of auto sears for Glock handguns and later found the man had an illegally modified fully automatic pistol.

In a March case, a 31-year-old man illegally in possession of a handgun started shooting at multiple people standing outside of a St. Paul bar, hitting a man in the chest.

Luger said his office is “acutely aware” that prosecution and incarceration are not the only answers to violent crime, but that it is ultimately an important component, especially in light of the harm caused by the recent crime wave.

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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