Three alleged gun traffickers from Queens were arraigned on Tuesday, July 21, in connection with an illegal gun trafficking ring that saw at least 23 guns shipped from Virginia and sold in Queens, District Attorney Melinda Katz announced on Wednesday.
Jessica Heyliger, a 35-year-old from Jamaica; Mitchell Myree, a 36-year-old from Jamaica; and Sharod King, a 32-year-old from Woodside, were variously charged with criminal sale of a firearm, criminal possession of a weapon and conspiracy, the DA said.
A fourth man, Laquan Benson, a 36-year-old from Richmond, Virginia, was also charged in connection with the case and is currently awaiting extradition from Virginia, according to Katz.
“New York City has seen a disturbing spike in shootings over the last few weeks. Combating this dangerous rise in gun violence means cutting off the supply of illegal guns coming into our neighborhoods,” Katz said. “Illegal gun traffickers put every citizen in our borough at grave risk. I want to thank the NYPD’s Firearm Suppression Section for their relentless pursuit and acknowledge the great work of my team for their tireless efforts.”
The investigation into the gun trafficking group began in September 2019, when an undercover police officer bought a handgun and two large capacity ammunition feeding devices from King, according to the charges. After the purchase, the NYPD began court authorized surveillance on King’s cellphone.
The undercover officer continued to buy guns from King, who acted as Heyliger’s salesperson, according to the charges. In total, the officer bought a total of 23 guns over 13 transactions — most of which occurred in and around Astoria — from the group, the DA said.
According to Katz, all but two of the guns sold by Heyliger and King to the undercover officer were supplied by Benson, who would purchase the guns online in Virginia and send them to Heyliger in Jamaica. Myree also sold guns to Heyliger during this time, the charges state.
The investigation into the trafficking ring lasted 10 months and was expanded to include Benson when Katz began serving as Queens district attorney, Katz said.
“This case reflects the NYPD’s efforts to stop illegal firearms from reaching New York City’s streets,” said Police Commissioner Dermot Shea. “Our NYPD detectives and law enforcement partners remain vigilant in our work to keep these weapons out of the hands of criminals where they threaten all of our communities.”
While gun violence in New York City has seen a spike in recent months, Katz added that the problem can’t be solved by prosecutions alone.
“I am committed to working within the community with nonprofit groups and faith-based organizations to create opportunities for young people, provide educational programs and empower youths to make better decisions for their future,” Katz said. “We cannot, however, only prosecute our way out of this crisis. The answer must include community involvement and participation.”
If convicted, Heyliger, Benson and King face up to 25 years in prison. Myree faces up to 15 years in prison, if convicted. Heyliger, King and Myree are scheduled to appear in court on July 24. Benson’s arraignment is pending.
This story first appeared on qns.com.