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Springfield Police Say They Saved Lives With Seizure Of Assault Rifle

 Springfield police displayed at a news conference the firearm and ammunition confiscated during an arrest on Aug. 24, 2021
Paul Tuthill
Springfield police displayed at a news conference the firearm and ammunition confiscated during an arrest on Aug. 24, 2021

Man arrested had earlier firearms charge

Police in Springfield, Massachusetts say they prevented potentially deadly violence by seizing a military-type rifle.

After an investigation that took several weeks, detectives with the Springfield Police Department’s recently-formed Firearms Investigation Unit executed a search warrant Tuesday night at a home on Phillips Avenue in the Boston Road neighborhood where they recovered an AR-15 rifle and dozens of rounds of ammunition, police announced at a news conference.

Pointing to the confiscated high-powered weapon, Capt. Brian Keenan, who heads the firearms unit said, “What you don’t see on the table is the violence that is prevented by that gun being seized last night. There is no doubt in my mind lives were saved because of the work of those detectives last night and for the past several weeks with what they’ve done with their investigation.”

He said since it was created in early July the firearms unit has taken more than 2 dozen guns – many of them high capacity firearms -- have been taken off the streets.

“We’re going to continue to target violent repeat offenders,” said Keenan. “We are going to continue to target people involved in the firearms game.”

Faced with an alarming increase in gun violence earlier this year, Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood created the new unit to focus exclusively on guns. At the time, aggravated assaults, which includes shootings, were up by 26 percent in Springfield compared to a year ago.

The level of gun violence has subsided as the summer as gone on.

Springfield Deputy Police Chief Steven Kent said the firearms unit is doing incredible work.

“I would put the work that Capt. Keenan and his unit is doing in regards to seizing firearms, on a per capital basis, up against any (law enforcement) unit in New England,” Kent said.

Kent said the person who was arrested for unlicensed possession of an assault weapon and other charges, 23-year-old Milan Brown, was out on bail after Springfield police had arrested him in May for allegedly being in possession of an illegal “ghost gun.”

“These officers were familiar with this individual because on May 18th,while on an unrelated investigation, they observed Mr. Brown playing basketball in a local park with a high-capacity pistol in his waistband,” Kent said.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno renewed his criticism of the courts, which he has frequently lambasted as too lenient in allowing “repeat violent offenders” to walk free on bail.

“There was no reason that this individual should be on the streets and could have perpetrated vicious crimes injuring, maiming, and even killing people with this,” Sarno said as he gestured toward the seized assault weapon.

Sarno has filed state legislation that would allow prosecutors to appeal bail rulings.

At the time police were making the arrest and confiscating the assault weapon, Sarno said he was at a Metro Center neighborhood meeting where for three hours residents voiced their concerns about public safety.

“And what you heard was ‘Why are these people continuing to be on the streets?’ ”, Sarno said. “That is why this bail legislation needs to be pushed.”

The bail reform legislation Sarno has supported since 2014 has never made it out of a legislative committee at the Statehouse.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.