PA: Illegal guns brought death, mayhem


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2dogs
May 12, 2003, 03:41 PM
Professional Ordnance

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http://www.philly.com/mld/dailynews/news/local/5808184.htm

Illegal guns brought death, mayhem
Dealer sentencing today; leniency unlikely
By JIM SMITH
smithjm@phillynews.com

WHEN DRUG dealers in West Philly wanted expensive, exotic firearms, Lehron "Ruff" Harris was the man to see.

A big man, tipping the scales at more than 400 pounds, Harris had connections and could get you a .50-caliber Desert Eagle, the biggest handgun in commercial production and a drug-dealer favorite because of the power it brings. The gun costs more than $1,200 on the retail market.

Or the .223-caliber assault pistol from Professional Ordnance that sells for about $900, fires 30 rounds in a matter of seconds, and uses rifle ammunition that can easily penetrate a police officer's bulletproof vest.

Harris, federal prosecutors say, sold guns on the street for twice their market value. Because he already had a felony convction, he would get others to buy guns for him at licensed gun shops.

Harris' "conduct as a gun trafficker has left a trail of crimes and bodies across the city of Philadelphia," noted Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas P. Hogan in a sentencing memorandum.

Harris, 31, of Sloan Street near Poplar, pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm and trafficking in firemans and is scheduled to be sentenced today. But he is seeking leniency because of the significant medical conditions linked to his weight.

He walks with a portable oxygen tank to help him breathe. His heart could fail in prison, his doctor, Keynatta Lee, predicts. He remains under house arrest.

The feds are not inclined to show mercy. Noting "the exceptionally dangerous nature of the guns" and "the dangerous criminals" who bought them, they are seeking the maximum sentence for Harris - about 6 ½ years in prison under current guidelines.

The guidelines are driven by the number of guns sold - at least 14 - and by Harris' prior conviction for a felony drug-related offense in Maryland.

"Most illegal gun traffickers deal in relatively low-cost firearms," the prosecutor told U.S. District Judge John R. Padova. Harris sold "expensive and exotic weapons," one of which was the Desert Eagle.

"The rounds fired from this weapon are huge, three to four times the size and weight of a normal 9 mm round of ammunition," the prosecutor observed.

"The damage done by such a round of ammunition is enormous, making this gun a particularly prized weapon among drug dealers."

Harris also sold the Professional Ordnance .223-caliber pistol.

"Even a standard .223 round fired from this weapon would penetrate a police officer's ballistic vest with no problem," the prosecutor noted.

Harris told Sarah Tate, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent, that he, too, carried a gun in the Bottom (in West Philadelphia) "because he was hustling, selling weed [marijuana]," Tate testified recently.

Harris admitted packing a pistol but insisted he did so because the neighborhood was unsafe.

"Somebody tried to blow my house up," he testified.

Harris' attorney, Lawrence Krasner, declined to comment.

ATF agents arrested Harris last year - too late to help some victims.

The Professional Ordnance assault pistol was used to rake the home of Erica Pratt's uncle in a prelude to the 7-year-old's kidnapping nearly a year-and-a-half ago, federal prosecutors say.

In addition, prosecutors say, guns sold by Harris were purchased by two reputed drug traffickers - Shawn "Boo" Cherry, and Antoine Steed - before they were slain on city streets.

Harris confessed that he'd sold "eight or nine" guns to Cherry.

About a month before he was killed, Cherry, a reputed crack dealer involved in a long-running war with West Philly drug rivals, had been arrested for allegedly trying to shoot two Highway Patrol officers.

Cherry shot another man earlier that year.

Cherry was free on bail when he was slain.

The other murder victim, Steed had a .40-caliber Beretta loaded with 11 rounds in a holster in his waistband on Nov. 29, 2002, the night he and another victim, Michael Finney, 31, were killed inside a hotel ballroom on City Line Avenue near 44th Street, during a hip-hop party, following an argument.

No one has been arrested for these murders. Prosecutors say that Harris sold Steed the .40-caliber. Police seized another .40-caliber handgun from Steed seven months earlier when they arrested him for possession of drugs and a gun.

In addition, Ralph Cannon, 29, recently was sentenced to 15-years in prison for being an "armed career criminal" in possession of a gun - a .45 that he allegedly bought from Harris. After buying the gun, Cannon allegedly kidnapped and set fire to a man in what police said was a drug related incident. That case is pending.

Only four of Harris' guns have been recovered. Ten are still on the streets, including the huge .50 caliber Desert Eagle.

"Perhaps even more frightening is the damage still to come," Hogan told the judge.

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Standing Wolf
May 12, 2003, 07:40 PM
Only four of Harris' guns have been recovered. Ten are still on the streets, including the huge .50 caliber Desert Eagle.

Oh, gosh! I hope that big mean Desert Eagle doesn't decide to stomp any poor, pitiful, helpless innocent victims!

Monkeyleg
May 12, 2003, 07:51 PM
A Desert Eagle is "expensive and exotic?"

Y'know, for awhile here on THR I've felt like a piker for having so few guns, and ones that don't cost much. Now my Kimbers and Colts make me feel like a king!

Thanks, Mr. Prosecutor!

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