A Georgia woman this week admitted to her role in buying a gun for a known gang member later used in killing a 29-year-old Omaha police officer.
Jalita Jenera Johnson, 26, of Jonesboro, pleaded guilty to lying during the purchase of a gun Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Eleanor L. Ross in an Atlanta federal court.
In April, Johnson bought a Glock pistol, 50 round drum magazine and ammunition from Arrowhead Pawn Shop in Jonesboro, Georgia for her boyfriend Marcus Wheeler, a known gang member, drug dealer and convicted felon.
Wheeler later used the gun in a shootout with members of the Omaha Police Department’s fugitive task force that left Det. Kerrie Orozco dead just hours from completing her last shift before taking maternity leave. Wheeler later died from wounds received in the gunfight.
The day of Orozco’s funeral was originally the due date for her baby, Olivia Ruth, who was born three months premature.
“Laws which prevent convicted felons from buying guns are designed to protect the public,” said U.S. Attorney John Horn in a statement. “This defendant helped a convicted felon circumvent those laws. The tragic consequences and loss of life in this case reinforces the reason we have such strict laws in place.”
According to Horn, Johnson purchased the gun used in the shootout under her name with money provided by Wheeler, lying on Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives paperwork in an illegal straw buy. On the paperwork, she affirmed the pistol would be hers, when in actuality it was bought for Wheeler who – after spending five years in federal prison on drug charges – was a prohibited firearms possessor.
In the days immediately after Orozco’s death, gun control groups blamed Georgia’s gun laws for Wheeler’s illegal firearm, despite the fact Johnson’s purchase was a clear violation of existing federal law.
“It is unacceptable that once again, a police officer has been killed with an illegal gun from Georgia – a state that last year catered to the gun lobby’s agenda by weakening its already lax gun laws,” read a statement issued by Everytown for Gun Safety in July. “These are the same laws that the gun lobby is now trying to force on other states nationwide.”
Sentencing for Johnson is scheduled for November in front of Judge Ross, who began her legal career as an Assistant District Attorney in Tarrant County, Texas.
Jennifer Cruz contributed to this story.