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D.C. Gun Sting Had its Tense Moments; FBI and ATF Assisted

handgun-photoD.C. police are partially crediting this sting with the record low  homicide rate. The D.C. police worked with the FBI, which wired the store and ATF, which traced the guns.

By Clarence Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The three young men dressed in black walked into the Northeast auto body shop, talking fast, eager to make a deal: They had guns to sell.

Sgt. Dale Sutherland and Detective Franklyn Then sensed danger as one young man pulled out a silver handgun, unloaded the clip and laid it on the desk. Another kept his hand behind his back, and the third nervously stretched his arms above his head.

Ten officers and federal agents were on alert nearby in case of trouble. But Sutherland and Then were momentarily vulnerable. A phony storefront sting designed by D.C. police to build felony drug and weapons cases seemed on the verge of a robbery attempt. “They just kind of popped up on us,” said Then, who posed as a criminal middleman trying to ship guns to Mexico. “It didn’t feel good.”

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