Drug Dealer Linked To Gun Cops Search For Owner After Boy's Tragic Death

Posted: April 21, 1999

Cops last night were zeroing in on a drug dealer who most recently owned the gun that killed a 7-year-old child Monday afternoon, sources said.

However, they cautioned that it would take several days to piece together evidence against the suspect, and it was unclear what the owner could be charged with.

Cathy Abookire, spokeswoman for the district attorney's office, would not speculate on what the charges would be.

Police Commissioner John Timoney did say the 7-year-old boy who shot Jefferson would not be charged.

"It was a tragic accident," he said.

Added Homicide Capt. James Brady: "The real villians are the person who put the gun under the car and the person who sold the gun."

About 4:30 p.m. Monday, 7-year-old Nafis Jefferson was accidentally shot by another 7-year-old child on Sigel Street near 19th. Jefferson later died at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. The kids found the gun underneath a 1980 Subaru that neighbors said was used by drug dealers to stash guns and drugs.

Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents quickly tracked down the original owner of the gun yesterday through the serial number on the .44 caliber revolver. Perry Bruce, of Williamsport, bought it and several others from Sauers Trading in South Williamsport on Aug. 4, 1997, Timoney said.

He bought 30 guns from four licensed dealers between June 1995 and September 1997 and then sold them to narcotics traffickers and convicted felons who used them to commit robberies and other firearms offenses, Timoney said.

Twelve of the 30 guns have been confiscated by various police departments, eight of them in Philadelphia, he said.

Bruce was arrested in October 1997 and charged with engaging in the business of dealing firearms without a license and possession of a firearm by an unlawful drug user/addict. On Jan. 8, he was sentenced to 46 months in jail in federal court.

Timoney said the tragedy is an example of why lawmakers should support legislation to limit gun purchases to one per month.

"This case. . .has all the horrible elements of why there's such a desperate need for this legislation to be passed," he said.

State Rep. Dwight Evans, D-Philadelphia, introduced such a bill last year in Harrisburg but it hasn't gone anywhere.

Sigel Street near 19th is one of several pockets of drug activity in the relatively quiet First Police District in South Philadelphia, said Inspector Jeremiah Daly, commander of the Narcotics Division.

There have been 36 drug arrests within a block of that street since 1995 and the primary drugs being sold are crack cocaine and marijuana, he said.

Besides talking to neighbors and tracing the gun's serial number, investigators yesterday were: tracing the origins of the Subaru and dusting it for fingerprints; dusting the gun for fingerprints; and entering the shell casings at the scene into the Integrated Ballistic Identification System, a database of bullets and casings much like a fingerprint database.

When a gun is fired it leaves unique marks on a bullet that allow it to be connected to other shootings and homicides, said city Gun Czar Richard Zappile.

"It's like a fingerprint for a bullet," he said.

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