A mass shooting on Chicago’s South Side at the end of March led investigators to three U.S. Army soldiers nearly 500 miles away, according to federal prosecutors.
Demarcus Adams, 21, Jarius Brunson, 22, and Brandon Miller, 22, were arrested Tuesday on charges they operated an illegal gun pipeline that funneled dozens of firearms out of state and to Chicago, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee said in a news release.
All three are enlisted in the Army and stationed at Fort Campbell in Clarksville, Tennessee, about an hour outside of Nashville.
Adams, Brunson and Miller were charged in a criminal complaint and arrested by agents with the ATF and the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division.
If convicted, prosecutors said they face up to 20 years in prison.
According to an ATF agent’s statement accompanying the complaint, the investigation started with the Chicago Police Department on March 26 after a mass shooting. One person was killed and seven others were injured when gunfire erupted at “an impromptu party,” The Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Police recovered multiple guns at the scene, which were traced to Federal Firearms Licensed dealers in the Clarksville area. Adams, Brunson and Miller reportedly bought the majority of the guns.
When investigators took a closer look at firearm transaction records in the area, they found Adams had purchased 27 guns between December and April. Miller and Brunson, meanwhile, had bought 32 each, according to the criminal complaint. Adams and Miller were also found to be roommates.
Investigators looked at dozens of text messages between Adams and Miller that mentioned purchasing firearms and money transactions using Cash App, Zelle and Apple Pay.
“Fat boy u better take out a lil loan they want a lot of guns,” Miller said in a message on March 1.
ATF agents later searched Miller and Adams’ house in Clarksville, where prosecutors said they found at least 49 empty gun cases.
“Many of these empty cases were matched to firearms recovered by the Chicago Police Department at the scene of recent shootings and homicides,” prosecutors said.
A search of Miller’s phone also revealed text messages from Brunson that included photographs of guns and potential prices, according to the ATF agent’s statement.
Adams, Brunson and Miller have been charged with transferring a firearm to an out-of-state resident, making false statements during the purchase of a firearm, engaging in the business without a firearms license, wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy. They had their first appearance in court on Tuesday.
Prosecutors have asked a judge to keep Miller in jail, saying he presents a “significant danger to the community” and is already facing military proceedings surrounding allegations of sexual assault.
“The defendant faces significant civilian and military justice charges and has very few, if any, connections to the Middle District of Tennessee,” prosecutors said in court filings. “The defendant would pose a significant flight risk if he were released.”