U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler announced Monday that the three individuals obtained firearms that were later used to kill the officers. These types of firearms purchases are known as “lie and buy” or “straw purchases,” Minkler said.
Dawn Rochon, 29, Indianapolis, faces eight counts related to making false statements when buying a gun. Tiffany Dean, 33, Terre Haute, faces charges of making a false statement when buying a firearm; her brother, Levi Brenton, 20, Terre Haute, faces charges including conspiracy to make false statements when purchasing a firearm, possession of a firearm by an unlawful drug user and selling/giving a firearm to an unlawful drug user.
According to court documents, Rochon bought a handgun from an Indianapolis store in February 2017 and gave false information during the purchase. The gun, Minkler said, was later used to kill Pickett in March 2018. She made three similar illegal gun purchases, prosecutors said.
"When guns are possessed, sold, used or acquired illegally, it is never for a good reason, and the results are often tragic. Nowhere does that statement ring truer than in the Southern District of Indiana. In a two-month period, two law enforcement officers were shot and killed in the line of duty," Minkler said, referring to the deaths of Pickett and Pitts.
In February 2017, Dean bought a gun claiming it was for her own use. However, she was buying it for her brother because he was “too young” to get one. Dean bought the firearm and gave it to her brother after he’d picked it out; that gun ended up in the hands of Christopher Wolfe, who fatally shot Pitts in May 2018.
“Two men who had no legal right to possess a firearm shot and killed two brave law enforcement officers,” Minkler said.
"If they did what law-abiding citizens are required to do, that gun would never have been in Wolfe's hand and that senseless killing would've never happened. Officer Pitts could've walked his son to school that day and many more in the future," Minkler said of the Pitts case.
The Boone County prosecutor plans to seek the death penalty against 21-year-old Anthony Baumgardt, who's charged in Pickett's death. Wolfe, who fatally shot Pitts, was killed after exchanging gunfire with officers in May.
Minkler also discussed a broader federal strategy to target gun violence. He touted the initiative called “Project Safe Neighborhoods” and said it was imperative for communities to support those efforts.
Minkler said many shootings around the Indianapolis area are the result of the “underground gun economy” that allows criminals to get access to firearms. He mentioned that Indianapolis has a violent crime rate 2.5 times the national average and a homicide rate 4.5 times the national average.
He believes aggressive prosecutions of violent offenders will be an effective deterrent against gun violence in the city.