Undercover gun sting goes bad in Richmond

March 29, 2012 12:56:03 AM PDT
A TEC-9 pistol could be seen lying on the ground in a Chevy's parking lot, while police investigated the scene. That's where federal agents shot a man during an undercover sting late Wednesday afternoon.

An undercover gun buy went bad, sending restaurant patrons diving for cover. It happened in Richmond around 3 p.m. near the Hilltop Mall. Apparently, these undercover operations go down all the time, but they don't always fall apart and put the public in harm's way.

"I just got here. I was coming to have lunch, go to happy hour, go to school, study," said Ahmad Cannon, a witness. "And everyone's on the ground, so I dive on the ground and start running to the back of the restaurant for more protection, more cover, more protection."

However, Cannon and the rest of the customers at the Chevy's restaurant didn't realize an undercover ATF operation was going down in the parking lot and it was about to go sour.

"The suspects posed a threat, a definite threat to the agent. The agent called for his cover team, and the cover team came in and shots were fired," said Helen Dunkel from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

One suspect dropped what appears to be a TEC-9 handgun. ATF officials say the undercover agent was attempting to buy illegal firearms from three suspects in a Chrysler 300, but they had no intention of delivering the goods. Instead they pulled a gun on the agent and tried to make off with the cash.

"The next thing you know, police are coming in, and a guy on the ground is shot, and I'm taking video of everything, and [they shouted] 'Stop taking video,'" said Cannon.

The agents shot and badly wounded one suspect. Another was caught and a third suspect took off, but he was arrested 30 minutes later nearby.

"I can tell you anytime our agents or fellow officers conduct undercover, they are putting their lives on the line," said Dunkel.

The ATF says these undercover operations are highly scrutinized and this one was carefully reviewed and approved. These suspects were young guys, two of them were 19-years-old and the other was 20.


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