Washington, DC - Today, Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates and U.S. Marshals Service Deputy Director David Harlow announced that for the second consecutive year, the U.S. Marshals Service has conducted a high-impact national fugitive apprehension initiative focusing on the country’s most violent offenders. This six-week initiative, called Operation Violence Reduction12 (Operation VR12), resulted in the arrest of 8,075 gang members, sex offenders and other violent criminals.
“Through Operation VR-12, over 8,000 violent fugitives who preyed on our communities were tracked down, arrested and put behind bars,” said Deputy Attorney General Yates. “Thanks to the strategic and focused efforts of the U.S. Marshals Service and their law enforcement partners, our nation’s streets are now rid of over 500 accused murderers, 600 gang members and nearly 1,000 sex offenders. Fugitives initiated gun battles, forced barricaded standoffs, assaulted officers and did everything they could to evade arrest – but our Deputy Marshals, together with their law enforcement partners, stood firm and succeeded in capturing the bad guys.”
“We applied a strategically focused approach to locate and apprehend the nation’s most dangerous fugitives,” said Deputy Director Harlow. “By removing these violent offenders from the streets, the communities they preyed upon can immediately feel more secure. Operation VR12 was about using our expertise and law enforcement partnerships to significantly impact our communities by focusing on the worst of the worst violent criminals.”
While Operation VR12 was conducted nationwide in all 94 federal judicial districts, U.S. Marshals focused special attention on 12 selected locations experiencing upticks in violent crime: Baltimore; Brooklyn, New York; Camden, New Jersey; Chicago; Compton, California; Fresno, California; Gary, Indiana; Milwaukee; New Orleans; Oakland, California; Savannah, Georgia; and Washington, D.C.
In order to have the greatest impact on violent crime, Operation VR12 focused on fugitives who had three or more prior felony arrests for crimes such as murder, attempted murder, robbery, aggravated assault, arson, abduction/kidnapping, weapon offenses, sexual assault, child molestation and narcotics. Operation VR12 investigators increased their focus on fugitives accused of sex crimes and on the recovery of missing children.
Between Feb. 1 and March 11, the U.S. Marshals Service used its multi-jurisdictional investigative authority and fugitive task force network to arrest 648 gang members and others wanted on charges including 559 for homicide; and 946 for sexual offenses. In addition, investigators seized 463 firearms, $390,360 in currency and more than 71 kilograms of illegal narcotics. Also during the operation, investigators recovered 17 children who had been abducted and reported missing.
Blake Edwards Fitzgerald and Brittany Nicole Harper were the focus of a multi-state investigation that received national media attention. Dubbed a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde, Fitzgerald and Harper were wanted in Missouri, Georgia, Alabama and Florida for multiple charges including kidnapping, armed robbery, burglary and firearms violations. After leading authorities on a multi-day, cat-and-mouse chase and two high-speed pursuits, the duo was located in Pensacola, Florida, on Feb. 5. Fitzgerald was mortally wounded in an exchange of gunfire with officers, while Harper sustained non-life threating gunshot wounds.
Sabino Avila, a documented member of the Two Sixer street gang, was wanted by the Chicago Police Department for home invasion and rape. On Feb. 9, Avila allegedly forced entry into the home of a 54-year-old woman, tied her up and sexually assaulted her. Local authorities asked U.S. Marshals for assistance in locating and apprehending the suspect. He was arrested without incident in Chicago on Feb. 14.
Carl Cooper was wanted by the Baltimore City Police Department for allegedly shooting two elderly siblings in front of a busy shopping center. He was named “Public Enemy #1” by Police Commissioner Kevin Davis. Operation VR12 investigators arrested Cooper in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on March 4.
“Fugitives have a propensity to commit violent criminal acts posing danger to communities and plaguing neighborhoods where we live and work.” said Deputy Director Harlow. “Working with our federal, state and local partners, enforcement initiatives like Operation VR12 severely cripple these criminal activities.”
The concept behind interagency law enforcement operations such as Operation VR12 evolved largely from regional and district task forces. Since the 1980s, the U.S. Marshals Service has combined their resources and expertise with local, state and federal agencies to find and apprehend dangerous fugitives. Operation VR12 continued this tradition.
For more information about Operation VR12, including photographs and B-roll footage, visit www.usmarshals.gov.