GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids man who trafficked the gun that was used in the homicide of a 2-year-old in Wyoming has been sentenced.
Jerreil LaMounta Martin was sentenced Monday to 37 months in prison for illegally purchasing and trafficking at least 45 guns, including some that were later used in crimes around the state. U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Jonker also imposed three years of supervised release.
“Martin would purchase these guns for the purpose of selling them to people who were prohibited by law from otherwise purchasing or possessing guns. Most, if not all, of these people were prohibited because they’re convicted felons,” U.S. Attorney Mark Totten said in a virtual news conference Monday morning. “This tactic is sometimes known as ‘straw purchasing.’”
Federal prosecutors say Martin said the guns were for his own use when he bought them even though he was buying them for other people. They say Martin also knew some of his customers were reselling the guns. He charged between $50 and $100 per gun.
“You’ll give me the cash before I go in the store,” Martin explained to one prospective customer via text, Totten showed reporters in the news conference. “I’ll go in there for you grab the gun do all the paperwork then once everything is done just give me $100.”
The feds released a photo of Martin trying to ‘straw’ purchase a pistol in July 2022. At the time, Totten said, he had already been told that one of the trafficked guns had been used in a homicide.
That was after the Feb. 9, 2022, death of 2-year-old Khalise Brewer in the city of Wyoming. Khalise’s father Seninta Parks was charged with her murder. Federal investigators say Martin bought the Ruger 5.7 x 28 mm semi-automatic pistol Parks used.
“That’s why this work is so important,” Totten said in an interview with News 8 later Monday afternoon. “We have to stop the illegal channels that are really arming people that are willing to commit these horrible crimes.”
Acting Special Agent in Charge Craig Kailimai from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives field office in Detroit, called Martin a “textbook firearms trafficker.”
“Multiple purchases of firearms, multiple recoveries across the state of Michigan, multiple cases where the guns were either used in violent crimes or recovered at crime scenes, and this did not deter him,” Kailimai said. “He took no accountability for his actions and the fact that he was putting firearms in the hands of individuals who were prohibited from possessing them and then ultimately used them in violent acts against other citizens.”
In all, police have found 14 of the guns, saying they were used to commit crimes in Genesee, Kent and Isabella counties. Federal prosecutors stressed there are even more out there.
“If you look at that list of crimes committed, it’s a stunning and devastating list,” Totten said.
Investigators say a Glock .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol Martin bought was used in a shooting on the Blue Bridge in Grand Rapids on Sept. 11, 2022. Four people were hurt.
Martin also bought a Glock 9 mm semi-automatic pistol that was used in three separate drive-by shootings in Grand Rapids.
“The list is really quite shocking to see the number of homicides that followed, the number of shootings, some of them drive-by shootings, spraying bullets into the home of sleeping families,” Totten said. “It really is quite concerning.”
In and around the Flint area, one of the guns Martin bought was used in a drive-by that injured an 11-year-old girl. Another was used in a homicide. Central Michigan University police found another one of the guns as they investigated a number of vehicle break-ins.
But most of the guns Martin trafficked, Totten said, are still out there.
Martin’s sentence for over just three years came after a plea deal that dismissed six out of eight charges.
“I will say the sentencing here took place within the bounds of what the law prescribes,” Totten said. “I wouldn’t want to minimize what 36 months mean. The person was a first-time offender. We’re hopeful that 36 months changes his course.”
Investigators said they told Martin one of his guns was used in the killing of the Wyoming 2-year-old. But he still tried to buy and illegally sell a gun again. News 8 asked Totten why Martin wasn’t arrested before then, and he said part of the reason it took so long to build their case is because there’s no national gun database.
“In this case, when law enforcement does an investigation like this, they have to go to each individual gun dealer in the area, ask them to pull up their records, and ask if a certain individual ever purchased guns through their stores,” Totten explained. “That can be a very labor-intensive task that takes time.”
Totten said that in the last three years, there has been a “significant rise” in firearm-related deaths, calling that rise “especially steep” among children, women and people of color. Last year, for the first time, gun violence became the No. 1 cause of death for people ages 1 to 19.
“This case sheds some light on what’s happening,” Totten said. “Taken together, these stories give a glimpse into how illegal gun trafficking is fueling the rise of violence in cities across Michigan.”
He had a warning for other ‘straw’ buyers:
“We will find you and we will hold you accountable,” he promised. “These are not victimless crimes. As the stories I’ve shared today show, these crimes have life-shattering consequences.”