The .45-caliber handgun found near the body of police officer Thomas Wortham IV passed through three states and many hands before a chance encounter at a convenience store set it on its tragic course for Chicago, says the Chicago Tribune. The weapon was among several brought to Chicago’s streets in a gun-trafficking scheme orchestrated by an man who had risen from a tough upbringing but couldn’t shake his criminal ties back home when he arrived at a Mississippi college.
The scheme depended on young Mississippi residents who were willing to illegally buy the guns for him, then blindly hand them over for $100 or less in return. With the Smith & Wesson used in Wortham’s homicide, the trafficker preyed on a young father whose infant daughter was dying of a brain tumor and was fearful of losing his job. A Tribune review of court documents and interviews shows how the distracted father’s split-second decision to break the law had deadly consequences in Chicago. In Mississippi, those who crossed paths with the gun never knew of the weapon’s impact until two weeks ago, when a reporter told them. About 10,000 guns are seized each year in Chicago. In July, more than 300 people were shot. Mississippi, hundreds of miles away, provides a gun route to Chicago forged by families who migrated decades ago to a state where purchasing requirements are more lenient.