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Posted On: 1/5/2017

Budish, Gilson, Pinkney, and Community Leaders Announce New Initiative to Stop Gun Crimes

Christopher Harris, (216) 443-7157

Ballistics Testing Begins in Cuyahoga County Regional Forensic Science Laboratory

CLEVELAND – Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish, Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas P. Gilson, Cuyahoga County Sheriff Clifford Pinkney, along with the Cleveland Police Department and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, unveiled a new regional ballistics lab, located in the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office, that will aid local law enforcement in stopping gun crimes.

“Last year was the deadliest in recent history,” said County Executive Armond Budish. “The violence is heartbreaking. We must, and are, taking steps to stop the gun violence. Our new regional crime gun lab should make a real difference.”

Here’s how it works: Police officers all around the county find and collect fired cartridge casings at crime scenes, and then send them to the regional lab. These items will then be examined, and photographs of the unique features will be entered into a central database.

For example, a shooting occurs in Lakewood and the casings left on the ground are sent to the lab. The next day a shooting takes place in Euclid. Those casings, too, go to the lab. Two days later, a person is arrested in Cleveland for armed robbery. When the gun is tested, it is found to be the same gun used in the Lakewood and Euclid shootings. The shooter can also then be charged with the two previous shootings.

“Thanks to the efforts of many who made the new Ballistics Laboratory possible, investigators will have at their disposal another means by which to solve crimes that may otherwise go unsolved,” said Mayor Frank G. Jackson.

The new ballistics lab will open in two phases.

Phase I, beginning immediately, will gradually transition firearm casework from the Cleveland Police Department to the new lab. This phase will focus on casework that requires test firing and data entry into the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN)—a national database that includes digital images of fired bullets and cartridge cases that were found at crime scenes or test-fired from confiscated weapons.

“As investigators we rely heavily on technology and the support of agencies such as the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office. The institution of the new Ballistics Laboratory is a great tool which will further enhance the abilities of law enforcement,” said Cleveland Police Chief Calvin D. Williams.

Phase II, beginning in the second quarter of this year, will expand firearm casework submissions to local law enforcement agencies in the county. Courier services will be made available by the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department to local agencies to help them save time and manpower.

“We are very pleased to be able to announce the opening the Firearms and Toolmark Laboratory. This represents the final section to be included in the Regional Forensic Laboratory,” said Dr. Gilson. “We were pleased to work with our partners in the City of Cleveland to assume this service and ultimately make it available to the rest of the county through the assistance of our County Executive. With gun violence on the rise nationally and an ongoing source of concern locally, we look forward to using this laboratory to promote the safety of our citizens.”

Features of the ballistics lab include the following:

  • Test Firing (Ballistics Water Tank, Indoor Range)
  • Ammunition Library
  • Firearms Library
  • Remote Firing Device (allows the firing of a firearm that may not function or be safe to fire by hand)
  • Serial Number Restoration (techniques used to restore erased serial numbers on firearms)
  • Ammunition Creation (ability to create rare/discontinued ammo)
  • NIBIN Database
“ATF is proud of the cooperative efforts we have made with our law enforcement partners in Cuyahoga County,” said Trevor Velinor, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Columbus Field Division. “The opening of this new lab will allow us to increase and expand those efforts as we move into the future.”

The lab will consist of 5 county employees, including Firearms and Toolmarks Supervisor, Sam Marso. The staff is comprised of veteran firearms experts, with over 75 years of experience between them.