Firearms have been used in committing crimes for centuries. It was not until the 1990’s that firearms and bullets could be connected to one another. Every time a gun fires it leaves an imprint that is identifiable. Each firearm has its own unique print that can be used to determine if a bullet was fired from that same weapon.
Firearm ballistics and examination has been used in determining criminal cases for many years now. One case that was solved by firearm ballistics was in 2001. The case had been cold for over 40 years, and because of the advanced technology in firearm fingerprinting the case was finally solved.
In 1961 a man named John Orner was shot in his head and tossed over a steep cliff. Mr. Orner was working at the time of the murder as a taxi cab driver. “The police who investigated the case thought it was a robbery because the victim’s pockets were pulled inside out of his pants, and no money was present at the scene” . The victim would have had money on him because of his profession as a taxi driver.
Three weeks after the murder of the taxi driver the police thought they had a lead. In Tennessee an officer stopped an 18 year old man Edward Freiburger driving through town. The young man was a soldier from South Carolina and he had went AWOL from Fort Jackson. The man had a weapon in his vehicle that was loaded. The weapon was a 38 caliber revolver and was the same type of gun that had killed the taxi driver a few weeks prior.
The soldier was arrested and a police investigation had found out that the gun was purchased the day before the taxi driver was murdered from a pawn store. The gun was tested and the findings were not useable and the outcome was inconclusive. The police had to release Freiburger because they could not hold him on the murder of the Orner because the firearm ballistics results were not positive.
The detectives who was working Orner’s homicide case has no new leads or evidence after the release of Freiburger. The case and all the evidence was put away on a container and set on a shelf for the next 40 years. In 1997 the police department had organized a cold case group to work old cases that had not been solved. The lead cold case investigator had opened the box that included all the evidence, and crime scene phots of Orner’s murder and began looking it over.
The case would be difficult at first because some of the investigators and police detectives had died, and a lot of the witnesses in the case were also deceased. Freiburger’s soldier friend who was also his alibi had also been deceased at the time the case was reopened. Due to a lot of the individuals who were originally tied to the case had died it would be harder to prosecute the person who committed the murder.
The cold case investigator hoped that the technology advancement in firearm testing and printing would assist in solving this 40 year old murder case. The gun that Freiburger had in his position when he was pulled over in 1961 was able to be tested to see if the print of the gun matched the murder weapon used to kill John Orner. Once the results came back it was a positive match that the same gun Freiburger had in his possession was the same weapon that brutally murdered the taxi cab driver in 1961.
In April of 2001 Freiburger was living in a small town in Fort Wayne Indiana and had not gotten into any trouble since 1961. The police came to his residence and arrested him for the murder of John Orner. Freiburger had thought he had gotten away with the crime after all these years, but the advances in science and technology had proven otherwise. The forensic science of firearm printing had solved the this cold case of 4 decades, and Freiburger was found guilty of murder and was given a sentence of life in prison without parole.
In this case firearm examination and ballistics had solved a murder that happened many years before. If it was not for the advancement in testing firearm printing the case would probably still be unsolved today. Firearm testing is used to solve many cases, and the technology has made this possible. A weapon has a unique print just like an individual has a unique fingerprint. When a bullet is fired out of that gun it marks the bullet with that unique print.
There is no identical print that could be confused when evaluating this type of evidence. Once the print is left after being fired then it is traced back to the gun. It is a very resourceful type of testing that does hold up in court and convicts a person who is found guilty based on the evidence of firearm ballistics.
“Microstamping and ballistic identifications laws makes it easier to identify what firearm fired a cartridge case” . The Comprehensive Ballistics Testing Center makes it mandatory for weapon sellers to always test fire the weapon and keep the findings on record for identification. The identifiable print left on the cartridges after the weapon is fired is stored in a database. The information stored in the database for law enforcement to use to see what gun fired what cartridge or bullet. This helps in the identification of weapons used in crimes, and also is useful in relating the weapon to the previous owners or buyers.
Microstamping and ballistics printing or identification helps investigators connect crimes even if the weapon used is not found at the scene. If the bullets or cartridge casings is recovered in a crime scene but not the weapon the print can be recognized as to what firearm was used at the time the crime was committed. This process has lead the way science, technology, and investigations come together to interpret information that may not have been useful 20 years ago. The testing has become advanced enough to relate weapons to bullets because of the microstamping and ballistics imprint.
“The National Integrated Ballistic Information Network is used to put violent people in prison for crimes” that may not have been revealed had the imprint system been born. The NIBIN offers resourceful information that assists investigations and detectives to solve cases, and arrest criminals in a timelier manner. The system has improved and revolutionized crime investigations and evidence collection over the last decade.
Before this NIBIN came about the process was more complicated. The comparison of bullets, cartridges, and weapons had to be examined by hand. This was very time consuming, and manual comparison was not as accurate in determining if a weapon fired the evidence left behind at a crime scene. Court cases who relied on this type of information for conviction were postponed; and trials took longer because of the time it took to manually examine the evidence.
Once the NIBIN was born it made these types of cases a lot faster, and less man power. Now the detectives enter the information into a computer database and NIBIN can search local law enforcement data, surrounding geographical location data, and a widespread geographic data. The search does not take very much time, and once the database is done searching and comparing information the results come back. This type of program has less flaws and errors that manual examination and comparison would have.
Court cases can be tried on time without delay in ballistic information because of delayed manpower, and manual labor. The system is accurate and offers effective print and weapon correlation. Once the NIBIN programs finds a match between crime scene evidence and weapon then the confirmation will help put away a dangerous criminal when the trial or court proceedings occurs. This new technology has had an impressive impact on crime scenes across the nation, and has helped ensure dangerous criminals are put in prison where they belong. Law enforcement and cold case groups across the country have turned to this type of program to help solved old cases that have been left behind in the past due to insignificant testing.
“Firearm ballistics and evidence can be crucial in determining what happened at a crime scene” , and what type of crime was committed. The evidence at a crime scene may be in abundance or may be a small fragment of evidence left. Examination of crime scene evidence is crucial in the detection of the criminal, and putting the pieces of the puzzle together of the crime. The investigation of what happened leading up to the crime is also helpful in determining the moments of the crime. Firearms are used in many crimes in today’s society. Not all firearms are legally bought when used in a crime so it is important for the NIBIN to help detect the weapon that committed these violent crimes. It is a difference in a criminal being put behind bars, and the victims families getting closure that the criminal is caught. The NIBIN has made this all possible and resourceful in finding the answers to these gun related crimes.
The increase in gun violence in America has kept investigators busy, and overloaded on cases. The one thing criminals are not counting on is getting caught for the weapon crimes they commit. The investigators have one advantage ahead of the criminals is the program that helps tell what weapon was used in each crime because of the evidence the criminals fail to take with them. The advancements in forensic science and firearm identification will only improve as times passes.
No matter how smart a criminal thinks they are when committing a crime, there will always be forensics that can help in proving them wrong, and giving investigators a win when convicting and solving a case. No matter how old the case may be, if there was evidence found and preserved the technology of today’s world will give a good probability of finding out the truth in the end. Firearm evidence examination has come a long way over the years.
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Smith, J. (2016). National Intregated Ballistics Information Network. ATF, 1-2.
Thompson, R. (2013). Microstamping and Ballistics . Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence, 1-7.