New ballistic testing finds early success

Local News

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah (News4Utah) Utah is touted as an example for the country because of a successful new ballistic testing program. 

On Monday, federal leaders said the program connected guns to 75 violent crime cases in Utah in just two months. 

When eight shots were fired into a South Salt Lake City home on June 30, police say they didn’t know the accused shooter’s handgun was used in another drive-by at a birthday party in Ogden weeks earlier. 

“I don’t know we’d even be able to make an arrest,” Ogden Police Chief Randy Watts said. 

That is until Jennifer Gelston got a ballistic match in the Utah Gun Intelligence Center.  

“That one was unexpected,” Gelston said. 

When a gun is fired, it leaves unique marks on ammunition casings, just like fingerprints, that can link crimes. The gun’s evidence led to the arrest of known gang-member Rory Cordova, now charged with several felony charges in both cities.  

“It’s a huge game changer,” Chief Watts said. 

Within two months, 1,200 shell casings were entered into the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN). Fifteen hits involved serial shooters in the state. 

“We have successfully deployed technology that should leave gang members and thugs shaking in their boots,” US Attorney for the District of Utah John Huber said. 

Ballistic comparisons aren’t anything new. However, this technology accelerates results from six months to one week. Three-D imaging makes the tests more accurate. 

“We were focusing on one violent crime, one shooting, and now we are able to link other shootings so now we have multiple shootings,” Associate Deputy Director Regina Lombardo said, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

US Attorney Huber praised the new technology for beefing up the case against 33-year-old Justin Llewelyn, who is accused of running from police in Provo back in January. Investigators believe they linked the gun found in his truck to shots fired at a homeowner and an officer in Harriman. 

“We want to disrupt the shooting cycle and get ahead of it,” Lombardo said. 

The next step for NIBIN, according to Lombardo, is speeding up the process to 24 to 48 hours. 

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