Investigators in Colorado are learning that cracking unsolved crimes could be as simple as firing a suspected crook’s gun.
Police are firing the guns they confiscate when they arrest criminal suspects, in order to enter the shell casings in a statewide database of spent casings found at the scenes of unsolved crimes.
The database, called NIBIN, is most recently being credited with linking two unsolved crimes in two separate Colorado cities to one suspect.
"I think it's changing the way we do business in law enforcement,” ATF special agent Chris Amon told Denver7 Investigates.
Adrian Lomeli-Casillas pleaded guilty in Denver last month to a drive-by shooting that sent a man to the ICU on Super Bowl Sunday in 2014. Bullets barely missed two women who witnessed the shooting. The detective investigating the case said it probably would have never been solved without NIBIN.
"When this case happened, I did everything I could think of as far as a detective to try and identify these people and I was unsuccessful,” Detective Adam Golden of the Denver Police Department said.
The case went cold for nearly two years until NIBIN matched shell casings left at the scene of the drive-by to an incident in Colorado Springs where someone fired a gun in the air.
When police arrested Lomeli-Casillas for another matter, they found a gun in his car. NIBIN matched that gun to the earlier incidents in Denver and Colorado Springs. He’s now serving an eight-year prison sentence for the Denver assault.
"You’re solving crimes that otherwise would not have been solved if you did not have comprehensive entry analysis and then the leads pushed out to the investigators in a timely manner,” Amon said.
Each NIBIN system costs about a quarter of a million dollars to install. Major agencies up and down the Front Range are now feeding their information into the database, and it’s paying off.
In a year’s time, police in Denver, Lakewood and Aurora entered a total of 2,047 shell casings into the system and investigators managed to link those shell casings to 351 crimes.