November 2016 − In April of 2016, South Bend police responded to a burglary. Notable in the incident was the theft of two firearms – one of which was stolen with its uncommon 300 Blackout ammunition.
The owner of the rifle was able to supply police with a spent cartridge casing from the weapon. With test-fired cartridge cases in hand, a firearm examiner would be able to identify a possible future shooting to this weapon.
On April 21st, the day after the burglary, police respond to a “shots fired” call. There, they find over 30 spent cartridge casings outside a home that was “lit up” according to police. Luckily, there were no injuries. Investigators determine that two weapons were used in the incident, a 40 S&W, and a firearm using 300 Blackout ammunition.
Working the Case
Ray Wolfenbarger, South Bend Police Department’s firearm examiner entered the cartridge cases into the NIBIN system which helped him confirm that the gun used in the home shooting was indeed the same gun that was stolen in the burglary from the previous night. In addition to using NIBIN – which compares thousands of pieces of evidence in a national database – Wolfenbarger also entered the information into GunOps.
GunOps is a web-based crime tracking software that allows unprecedented collaboration and information sharing throughout the investigative process. Crime scene technicians can enter information at the scene, forensic personnel can add photos, data, and results, and detectives can consult, filter, and search for leads at their desk or in the field on a mobile device.
“GunOps is a cool tool because I can enter every aspect of the case and embed every photo,” explains Wolfenbarger. “This really helps build the case from the outset and gives everyone a bird’s eye view of everything.” Since South Bend began using the system five months ago, Wolfenbarger has expanded its use. What began with only two firearm examiners has since expanded to dozens of other users including detectives, members of the Gang Squad, crime scene technicians, supervisors, and members of the Major Crimes department.
The Firearm Returns
On October 10th, the 300 Blackout firearm made another appearance.
A car rolled up to a home in the 600 block of South 36th street and fired several shots at a man sitting on his front porch. While the man escaped injury, stray rounds struck the home across the street from the target’s house. A mother playing with her child was shot in the thigh. Police had no suspects, no witnesses, and no motive.
When photos of the crime scene were entered into GunOps, and the ballistics match was made to the previous two crimes, investigators used the centralized information to gain a much clearer picture of what had transpired. They now had enough leads to identify and charge a suspect. Four days later, a man was arrested and charged with one count of battery by means of a deadly weapon and one count of criminal recklessness.
With nearly 500 cases worked this year alone, Wolfenbarger now relies on GunOps to centralize case details (including photos), and share information across the police department in order to help generate investigative leads for detectives.
The more data put into GunOps, the more effective it is – not only within a department, but across agencies and cities. “I have so much data in there,” beams Wolfenbarger, “the ultimate goal is to have surrounding cities using GunOps.”