DETROIT – An undercover agent with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives took the Local 4 Defenders inside the investigation into a violent crime wave.
The criminals were willing to fire weapons in crowded public businesses and high-tech ballistics technology helped officials close the case. The ATF was able to connect multiple violent crimes, which led to what is likely to be a life sentence for the man police said was the mastermind behind the crimes.
Dozens of shoppers in Detroit were afraid for their lives when the three criminals robbed a store and its customers. The criminals made it clear they were armed and willing to shoot.
A few blocks away from the first robbery, they entered a hair salon on Springwell Street. Although it was crowded with women and children, the criminals fired two shots into the floor. The gunmen went person-by-person demanding they hand over their money and valuables.
After the robbery one business owner never opened their shop again out of fear.
The undercover ATF agent was tasked with finding the criminals and bringing them in. The word on the street was that Carlos Harper, 38, was the gunman, but federal authorities needed proof so they turned to ballistics technology.
"In this instance we had five random acts of violence that were all interrelated," the agent said. "Anytime there is a shooting in the city we collect that evidence. Then it is submitted to NIBIN."
NIBIN stands for National Integrated Ballistics Information Network.
"Each case has distinctive markings from the firing pin to the extractor. If it is a semi-automatic where it is extracting that casing out of the firearm that leaves a mark and those are distinctive marks," the agent said. "NIBIN then analyzes that to other casing that have already been entered into the system -- and that is where they make those connections."
Authorities tracked Harper, watching and waiting until he slipped up. When they moved in, they found Harper was in possession of the gun they said was used in the violent crimes connected through NIBIN.
That evidence alone was enough for authorities to convince Harper to plead guilty.
"I feel like, in this case, we definitely got people justice. Carlos Harper instilled so much fear in some of the victims that a couple of them refused to come to court," the agent said." "They didn't' want to answer the door."
Harper was sentenced to prison for 54 years. The two accomplices shown in the video were both arrested, charged and sent to prison.