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Stockton Case Study

Between 1999 and 2003, Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS) specialists at the Stockton Police National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN) lab collaborated with Stockton Investigators and forensic experts at the California Department of Justice, using the IBIS and NIBIN databases to acquire information from the test fires of firearms recovered from various crime scenes. This information was used to solve a multitude of gang-related crimes involving firearms in Stockton. The thirty-five guns that were recovered were linked to dozens of other crimes after being test fired and entered into the database. Six of them were particularly significant.

Guns found and entered into the database after being test fired were linked to previous crimes. The results of the test fires were matched to trace evidence from previous crime scenes– including recovered cartridges, markings and striation patterns on fired ammunition, etc. When test fires produced the same markings on the fired bullet as on the original bullet, the firearm used could be linked to a crime scene, and possibly even to a perpetrator.

One such case was that of Gun Number 1, a 9 caliber Sturm Ruger, which was fired at a party in Lodi when a fight broke out between two gangs, the “Nortenos” and the “Original Gangster Crips.” One person, Luis Eduardo Caracosa was killed, and another was wounded. The cartridge case evidence recovered from the crime scene was entered into the NIBIN database; the gun was found a day later. The images acquired from test fires were also entered into the database. Apart from being confirmed as the gun used in the Lodi homicide, the Sturm Ruger was also linked to seven additional gang-related shootings in Stockton. Three individuals were arrested and convicted, with sentences ranging from 6 to 25 years.

Another case was that of a .45 caliber semi-automatic Springfield Armory pistol known as Gun Number 29. Two police officers conducting surveillance ran to investigate a shooting, and saw two suspects running through an alleyway. One of them dropped an object over the fence into an adjacent yard. The yard was later searched and the gun was found. When the recovered weapon was test fired, the pistol was linked to a recent drive-by shooting in a nearby area and nine other shootings dating back to 1999. One of the suspects was arrested for shooting into an inhabited dwelling and two unoccupied vehicles, found guilty, and sentenced to 94 months in prison; the other suspect escaped.

The effectiveness and efficiency of using solely ballistic evidence to identify dozens of perpetrators and the weapons used in various attacks in the Stockton cases demonstrates the power of ballistic evidence and the effectiveness of modern technology in solving crimes. Ballistics alone can solve many cases involving firearms, without the need to rely on any other sort of physical evidence.

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