Operation Smoke-N-Guns nets 111 guns, taken away from criminals in Lakeland

47 face state and federal charges

LAKELAND, Fla. - The shooting death of a Lakeland police officer more than a year ago may have helped get guns off the streets in that community.

On Wednesday, Lakeland Police Chief Lisa Womack announced the results of a six-month operation to get weapons out of the hands of criminals, called Operation Smoke-N-Guns.

The goal was to prevent another tragedy like the one involving Officer Arnulfo Crispin.

"Guns in the hands of felons is never a good mix," Womack said during a news conference. "You're looking at 111 total weapons that we do believe were in the hands of people that intended to use them in violent crime."

In this joint investigation between local and federal authorities, Operation Smoke-N-Guns targeted convicted felons, drug dealers and gang members who carried or were selling guns.

They wouldn't lay out the specifics of the operation, but said it involved undercover agents purchasing their weapons.

Wednesday morning, officers rounded up the offenders. So far, 28 are in custody and arrest warrants are out for 19 others.

"I think this is going to have a huge impact.  I think it's going to send a message to our bad guys here in Lakeland that we're simply not going to tolerate this," she said.

One motivation to get these weapons off the streets is a man so many at the police station called a friend: Officer Arnulfo Crispin.

He was shot and killed in a park more than a year ago during a routine pat-down.

"The tragic death of Officer Crispin was a sobering moment," said U.S. Attorney Robert O'Neill. "It brought even more attention to the fact that there's so much violent crime."

The 19-year-old accused of killing Crispin was not legally allowed to carry a gun.

While there's no sure way of knowing whether that murder could have been prevented, police hope this operation helped stop the next one.

"We got bad guns off the street," Womack said.

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