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Investigators 'overwhelmed' by volume of illegal firearms, ammunition seized in Twin Cities

Bureau of Criminal Apprehension officials said they'd collected an unprecedented amount of evidence during scaled-up enforcement efforts in the Twin Cities.

Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Superintendent Drew Evans
Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Superintendent Drew Evans speaks to reporters in St. Paul on Thursday, July 21, 2022, about the bureau's efforts to support local officials in investigating gun-related crimes in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Gov. Tim Walz is at left.
Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL — Minnesota public safety officials on Thursday, July 21, said they struggled to process an unprecedented volume of firearms, ammunition and other evidence apprehended as state and local agencies stepped up their presence in the Twin Cities.

In the first few weeks since Gov. Tim Walz ordered state forces to help local law enforcement, State Patrol and Bureau of Criminal Apprehension officers reported that they'd made 200 felony arrests, and seized 128 firearms and 4,187 fentanyl pills.

The increased police presence in the metro area came after the region faced a surge in violent incidents involving guns, fireworks and reckless drivers over the Fourth of July holiday.

Officers in the Twin Cities metro area have increasingly responded to crime scenes with dozens of bullet casings, Department of Public Safety leaders said Thursday.

And they said they'd confiscated dozens of "ghost" guns, firearms that are made without serial numbers to avoid tracking, as well as body armor-piercing ammunition.

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"These are not our hunting rifles that many Minnesotans use legally day in and day out across the state of Minnesota, they're designed to commit crimes and hurt people," Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Superintendent Drew Evans said. "We are simply overwhelmed with the amount of evidence that's coming into our laboratory day in, day out."

MNCRIMERESPONSE - seized firearms
Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension leaders on Thursday, July 21, 2022, displayed firearms that had been seized during warrant searches in the Twin Cities this month.
Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service

While state officials said the additional state resources helped Minneapolis and St. Paul law enforcement agencies, public safety groups across the board needed additional funding to adequately staff up and to process evidence in a timely fashion.

The governor said he'd urged lawmakers to approve a $300 million public safety funding bill earlier this year but lawmakers couldn't reach an agreement before the legislative session ran out.

Now, he said, he was working to convince legislators to return to St. Paul for a special session to advance the public safety plan and to issue rebate checks to Minnesotans.

"We need the resources to do this," Walz said. "I'm trying in every way I can to make the case to Minnesotans that it makes sense for us to come back to solve what we can solve."

Leaders in the divided Legislature over the last two months have not been able to reach an agreement to return to the Capitol. And the head of the Senate Public Safety and Judiciary Committee earlier this week said he didn't think lawmakers would reconvene before next year.

Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said the state's ability to quickly act in apprehending offenders and removing illegal weapons set up better outcomes down the road. And that requires additional funding, he said.

"The speed with which we take a bad guy off the street, the speed with which we take a gun off the street means that a payback shooting, a revenge shooting can't happen if the bad guy is already in custody and if his gun is already locked up," Harrington said.

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State Patrol and BCA agents were set to remain on patrol in Minneapolis and St. Paul for the foreseeable future, Evans and Harrington said.

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Several incumbent state legislators, particularly in the Senate, edged out competitors with more extreme views on COVID-19, election security and more.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter  @bydanaferguson , call 651-290-0707 or email  dferguson@forumcomm.com.

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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