Federal agents allege that last April 22, Levaine “Boo Man” Tanksley invited C.S. to his home on the South Side of Chicago and sold him three .45-caliber Glock semi-automatic pistols for $2,300.
C.S. — the initials stand for “confidential source” — was wearing a wire. An ex-felon, he was working undercover for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. ATF agents were watching and listening.
Prosecutors say that Tanksley sold four more pistols to C.S. that day for $5,300 and bragged that his guys were “coming back with another order … 30 more.”
They met again — the same day — in a Chinatown parking lot, where C.S. bought four more pistols for $2,200. Another nine guns changed hands for $7,500 that day.
Tanksley said there were plenty more where those came from: “I’ll get you whatever,” he told C.S. “Give me a list.”
The next day, Tanksley met with C.S. in Chinatown again and sold him 23 more guns for $20,000.
All told, C.S. bought 43 guns for $37,300 in barely 24 hours.
At least 23 of those guns have been traced to Indiana, and 13 have been traced to one Indiana firearms dealer. Some were purchased at gun shows, including the sprawling Indy 1500 Gun & Knife Show at the Indianapolis state fairgrounds. Some were bought in the parking lot of a McDonald’s restaurant on the outskirts of Indianapolis.
U.S. agents brought charges against Tanksley in May. Last month, they arrested David “Big Man” Lewisbey, a former Thornton Township High School football lineman who agents say drove to Indiana to buy many of the guns. Agents say Lewisbey was able to buy guns there just by showing an Indiana state ID.
Tanksley has pleaded not guilty. Lewisbey’s attorney said his client will contest the charges and doesn’t acknowledge a connection to Tanksley. They’ll get the opportunity to defend themselves in court.
The story of C.S., the ex-con and enthusiastic and successful gun buyer, is instructive as the nation grapples with firearms violence.
On Wednesday, President Barack Obama unveiled a slew of federal proposals to curb gun trafficking and violence, including background checks for all gun buyers and a national database to track the movement of firearms.
It will be critical to assess these local and national efforts in light of how they can curb the frightening ease with which criminals illegally obtain firearms. The great majority of Chicago’s 506 homicides were committed with firearms. Chicago police confiscated more than 7,400 guns last year.
The guns sold to C.S. in April were taken off the streets. But an ATF spokesman told the Chicago Tribune that at least a dozen other guns tracked in this investigation have been recovered in connection with various gang crimes. Two other defendants have been charged with allegedly assisting Tanksley.
Tanksley has been charged with illegal possession of guns by a felon. Lewisbey is charged with dealing guns without a license. Relatively mild charges, agents say, because no federal law specifically prohibits interstate gun trafficking.
Though Illinois has relatively tough restrictions on gun purchases, it is much easier to buy in neighboring Indiana.