Indianapolis, IN, December 11, 2013 — The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence is filing a lawsuit today on behalf of Officer Dwayne Runnels, 52, of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, who was shot in the line of duty on December 12, 2011. The suit alleges that KS&E Sports of Indianapolis, IN knowingly or negligently transferred a handgun through a straw purchase to convicted felon Demetrius Martin, who used it two months later to shoot Officer Runnels. The complaint, filed in the Marion County Superior Court, names as defendants KS&E Sports, its employee Edward J. Ellis, and Tarus E. Blackburn, Jr., who straw purchased the gun for Demetrius Martin.
Representing Officer Runnels in the case are Jonathan Lowy, Director of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence’s Legal Action Project, who has successfully sued gun dealers who sell crime guns around the country, including in Alaska, Kansas, New York, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, and Roger Pardieck of The Pardieck Law Firm in Seymour, IN. “Most gun dealers are responsible business people who don’t want dangerous people to obtain guns, but there are a few bad apples who choose to supply the criminal gun market to make a few extra dollars, and don’t care that innocent people are shot as a result,” said Mr. Lowy. “Police officers like Dwayne Runnels, who put their lives on the line to protect their communities, deserve better. If we are to make our streets safer, those bad apple dealers who choose to profit off the criminal market must be held accountable for their dangerous practices.”
The shooting that led to the lawsuit took place on December 12, 2011, when Officer Runnels stopped a vehicle in response to a reported shooting and armed robbery. Demetrius Martin exited the vehicle and opened fire, wounding Officer Runnels.
Martin was a felon, prohibited from purchasing or possessing guns. The complaint alleges that he obtained the .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun used to shoot Officer Runnels on October 10, 2011 through a straw purchase conducted by Tarus Blackburn, Jr. The complaint alleges that Martin and Blackburn went together to KS&E Sports, where Martin picked out a handgun, and Blackburn returned later that day to purchase it, before turning it over to Martin in exchange for $50. The complaint further alleges that KS&E made no effort to determine whether Blackburn was the actual buyer of the firearm, whether Martin was prohibited from owning a gun, or whether the purchase was legal.
KS&E has been publicly reported as one of the top sellers of guns later used in crime (“crime guns”). Data from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (“ATF”) show that between 1996 and 2000, KS&E ranked 34th in the nation in sales of crime guns, selling at least 529 guns traced to crime in that period. Over 90% of gun dealers in America sell no crime guns. 1% of gun dealers sell about 60% of the guns used in crime each year, and only 0.1%—less than 100 dealers nationally—sell more than fifty guns traced to crime each year.
The Legal Action Project of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence is entering its twenty-fifth year of working through the courts to reform dangerous and reckless gun industry practices that give criminals access to guns. For more information about the Brady Center and its Legal Action Project, click here.
Brady has one powerful mission — to unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters, bringing together young and old, red and blue, and every shade of color to find common ground in common sense. In the spirit of our namesakes Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 45 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands.