BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (WOOD) — An investigation over more than a year with several law enforcement agencies across Michigan led to almost a dozen individuals being charged Thursday morning with various felonies.
U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Mark Totten announced an investigation with federal, state and local agencies resulted in 11 people being charged with both drug and gun-related crimes. His office said eight of the suspects are from Benton Harbor and three are from Grand Rapids.
Five people were arrested on Thursday and five were arrested previously on prior charges. One person, 23-year-old Eric Williams of Grand Rapids, is still wanted, Totten’s office said.
The U.S. Attorney’s office released a photo of Williams. He is believed to be in either Grand Rapids or Benton Harbor. If you have information on his location, call 911.
According to court documents, the investigation revolved around the buying and selling of “firearm switches,” which can turn a semi-automatic Glock into a machine gun.
Criminals purchase them overseas or 3D print them.
“Once installed, these devices can enable a semi-automatic pistol to fire over 1,000 rounds in a minute with a single pull of a trigger,” Totten explained during a news conference Thursday afternoon.
Totten said the emergence of firearm switches, which can be installed in less than a minute with little technical knowledge, is “especially concerning.”
“Over the past few years we have seen a significant rise in violence related to firearms across America and here in Michigan,” he said. “(Switches) pose an emerging threat to our communities, to our children, to our law enforcement officers and to anyone who stands in the path of their indiscriminate spray. Their destructive capacity is, frankly, staggering.”
Investigators believe they’re saving lives by taking the gun switches off the streets.
More than 200 law enforcement officers participated in the arrests and executing search warrants on Thursday, authorities said during the news conference. They said they would continue to watch for and arrest people who illegally make, sell or receive the switches.
Authorities claim that the 11 suspects communicated with each other to buy and sell the metal pieces. The 11 suspects and pending charges are as follows:
- Evorion Anderson: distribution of methamphetamine and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine
- Jayvon Anthony: possession or transfer of a machine gun, being a felon in possession of a firearm and conspiracy to possess or transfer a machine gun
- Earl Austin IV: distribution of methamphetamine, conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, possession or transfer of a machine gun, being a felon in possession of a firearm
- Quincy Bowman: conspiracy to possess or transfer a machine gun
- Omarion Branch: being a felon in possession of a firearm
- Torez Burnett: conspiracy to possess or transfer a machine gun
- Nicholas Hallo: being a felon in possession of a firearm
- Demetrius Seuell: possession or transfer of a machine gun and conspiracy to possess or transfer a machine gun
- Tim Thomas: being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition
- Armando Villanueva: conspiracy to possess or transfer a machine gun
- Eric Williams: conspiracy to possess or transfer a machine gun
— Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the number of suspects who have been arrested. We regret the error, which has been fixed.