DENVER – Today, U.S. Marshal John L. Kammerzell is pleased to announce that for the past several weeks the USMS has led a national violent crime reduction initiative, Operation Violence Reduction7 (VR7). The operation ran from March 2 to April 10, 2015.
Operation VR7 has strategically focused on reducing violent crime by apprehending the country’s most dangerous felony fugitives, to include gang members, violent criminals, and sex offenders, as well as the seizure of guns, narcotics, and currencies. To focus our efforts, Operation VR7 aligned to seven regions that were identified as the “core” cities where violent crime is rampant and pose the greatest risk to our communities. These seven “core” cities are: Atlanta, Georgia; Baltimore, Maryland; Camden, New Jersey; Chicago, Illinois; Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Oakland, California. In addition to the “core” city deployments, the regional and district task forces focused efforts in the high-crime areas within their respective areas of responsibility.
Operation VR7 used a “dragnet” approach in the apprehension of violent criminals by utilizing our multi-jurisdictional investigative authority and our own fugitive task force network. The USMS also networked across the country with federal, state, and local partners. Here in the District of Colorado the USMS led Colorado Violent Offender Task Force (COVOTF) has safely located and arrested 57 violent fugitives during Operation VR7 and seized three illegal firearms. Subjects were arrested on warrants for crimes ranging from murder, kidnapping, narcotics trafficking, internet sexual exploitation of a child, sexual assault on a minor, serious gang activity, and theft of firearms. More than 7,100 fugitives were apprehended nationwide during the operation.
The US Marshals Service led Colorado Violent Offender Task Force partnered with several agencies across the state, specifically:
- Weld County Sheriff’s Office
- Garfield County Sheriff’s Office
- Douglas County Sheriff’s Office
- Routt County Sheriff’s Office
- Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office
- Boulder County Sheriff’s Office
- Delta County Sheriff’s Office
- Delta Police Department
- Glenwood Springs Police Department
- Steamboat Springs Police Department
- Pueblo Police Department
- Rifle Police Department
- Aspen Police Department
The quality versus quantity approach of our operations allowed us to prioritize our efforts and utilize our resources to apprehend those that pose the greatest danger to the community, as evidenced by several noteworthy arrests made throughout the Operation. Among those were:
Robert Lee ABEYTA. ABEYTA was arrested in Delta County Colorado on April 1, 2015, for felony assault. ABEYTA has an extensive criminal history to include arrests for 2nd and 3rd degree assault, assault with a deadly weapon, DUI, drug paraphernalia, protection order violations, burglary, harassment, FTAs, bond violations, possession of cocaine, probation violations, vehicular eluding, parole violation, domestic violence, dangerous drugs, stalking and threatening, child abuse, possession of a weapon by a felon, and a previous arrest by the U.S. Marshals Service for 2nd degree attempted manslaughter in 2011.
Steven MERCILLOTT. MERCILLOTT was arrested on March 31, 2015 for a warrant issued out of Delta County Colorado. The subject’s warrant was for failing to appear for an assault case, and intelligence received from local law enforcement described him as armed and dangerous. The subject also had a significant criminal history to include bond violations, traffic vehicular habitual offender, probation violations, domestic violence, 3rd degree assault, child abuse, false imprisonment, violation of protection orders, FTAs, weapons offences by previous offender, robbery, possession of controlled substances, assault with bodily injury, evading arrest, and kidnapping.
Ryan CULLEN. On April 8, 2015, the Summit County Court issued a felony no bond warrant for Ryan CULLEN on the Charge of Sexual Exploitation of a Child. CULLEN allegedly used the internet to engage in a chat with a 12 year old girl, during which he attempted to have her send nude pictures of herself. When that failed, he allegedly tried to blackmail her by stating he would take the picture she had sent and superimpose her face on a naked body. He threatened to then resend the altered photo to all of her friends. Information was developed that CULLEN was in Army boot camp at Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma. On April 8, 2015, a lead was sent from the Colorado Violent Offender Task Force to the Western District of Oklahoma, Lawton Sub-office and CULLEN was arrested that day by the U.S. Marshals Service and the Fort Sill Military Police.
Emilio HALL, Nickolas RIVERA, and a juvenile male. On April 1, 2015, Pueblo County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to a burglary at Pueblo West Guns and Ammo located in the 300 block of East Enterprise Drive in Pueblo West. Investigation by the PCSO revealed the identities of 3 primary suspects: Emilio HALL, Nickolas RIVERA, and a juvenile male all from Pueblo. Between April 7th and April 10th, Pueblo County Deputies and US Marshals effectively located and apprehended all 3 suspects. Their charges included 2nd Degree Burglary, Theft, and Possession of Firearms by previously convicted felons. One of the subjects was also being sought for questioning in connection with a homicide.
Jose MARTINEZ. On April 8, 2015, Pueblo County Sheriff’s Deputies and US Marshals apprehended Jose MARTINEZ at his residence in the 1700 block of Comanche Road in Pueblo. MARTINEZ was wanted on 5 felony warrants which included Assault/Menacing, Dangerous Drugs, Intimidation of a Witness/Victim, 2nd Degree Burglary, and Violation of Bond.
Nicholas LAWRENCE. On March 27, 2015, Colorado Violent Offender Task Force (COVOTF) received information that Nicholas LAWRENCE, wanted for homicide out of San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office in California, was in the process of traveling to Denver via Greyhound Bus. COVOTF converged on the Denver Greyhound Station, in an attempt to locate and apprehend LAWRENCE on the homicide warrant. At approximately 5:30pm LAWRENCE was observed exiting the bus and was taken into custody without incident.
“Our success during Operation VR7 was the direct result of the partnership between the U.S. Marshals Service and numerous state and local agencies across Colorado.” Said Colorado United States Marshal John L. Kammerzell.
For the past 225 years, the United States Marshals Service (USMS) has been committed to supporting the criminal justice system in the apprehension of violent felony fugitives. As the leader in apprehending the worst of the worst criminals, we arrest approximately 300 fugitives a day nationwide. Additionally, we have been successful with the many targeted initiatives we have undertaken in the past, such as the Operation Triple Beam (OTB) gang initiative, the Fugitive Investigative Strike Team (FIST) operations, and Operation FALCON. These initiatives have yielded substantial results and reduction in crime. The commitment and dedication of the men and women of the USMS and their focus to reduce violent crime makes our communities safer each day for the citizens of our great country.
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