MPD seizes multiple illegal guns in past week during crackdown

MPD Chief: "What is it about you and what you have done or are involved in that makes you feel like you need protection?"

MADISON, Wis. — Officers with the Madison Police Department seized three illegally-owned guns in the past week as part of a crackdown on dangerous driving, weapons offenses, and vehicle thefts throughout the city.

Madison Police Chief Shon Barnes said Thursday that his department has a renewed focus on enforcing traffic violations and unsafe driving, in part, because the drivers involved in those types of traffic stops are often unlicensed, have outstanding arrest warrants, or ties to drug trafficking.

“Our officers are out there doing very dangerous work; they’re getting these weapons off the street, and these illegal weapons that are being illegally carried – those persons are going to be held accountable,” Barnes said.

Two of the department’s latest seizures came as the result of traffic stops on East Washington Avenue. In the first, which happened on March 31, police said the suspects were going 60 miles per hour in a 35 mile per hour zone. When police stopped the vehicle, an officer reportedly saw the passenger struggling to hide a gun with his leg. Police had both men get out of the car, and officers ultimately found a loaded gun with a round in the chamber inside the vehicle.

Police said the passenger, 17-year-old Jayden Wilson, was arrested on tentative charges of possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, possession of narcotics and carrying a concealed weapon. The 22-year-old driver, Damari Thomas of Madison, was arrested on tentative charges of possession of marijuana with intent to deliver and possession of narcotics as well as a probation hold.

Both made initial appearances in court on Monday, online court records show.

The second East Washington Avenue gun seizure happened early Thursday morning after police made a traffic stop near Portage Road. During the stop, the driver, a 24-year-old Mississippi man, reportedly admitted to having a gun in the vehicle despite not having a concealed carry license.

The driver has not been formally charged as of Thursday night.

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In another seizure, police spotted a man wanted for a charge of recklessly endangering safety at a vigil on West Washington Avenue. The man, whom police later identified as Christopher Tibbs, 32, of Madison, left the area in a vehicle with another man, but police eventually pulled the pair over. When searching the car, police found a gun equipped with a fully loaded magazine under the driver’s seat.

The man reportedly told officers he had the gun for protection.

Police later identified the driver as Sean Johnson, 31, of Madison. He was arrested on tentative charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm, carrying a concealed weapon and possessing a controlled substance. Online court records show he made an initial court appearance on Tuesday.

Officers arrested Tibbs on multiple tentative drug charges as well as for probable cause in the recklessly endangering safety incident. He is set to make an initial appearance in court on the drug charges on April 15, online court records show.

Seized Gun

A gun police say officers seized during a traffic stop on April 1. Courtesy: Madison Police.

“I will tell you this: Carrying a weapon for protection is one thing, but carrying a weapon because you want to assault someone is something different,” Barnes said. “There’s really only two reasons you’d carry it for protection. One is of the unknown and two is of the known. What is it about you and what you have done or are involved in that makes you feel like you need protection?”

The seizures came days after Madison’s first homicide of 2022, which happened last Wednesday outside of the Dane County Jail. Two men have since been arrested and charged for their alleged involvement in the shooting, which Barnes has repeatedly described as “brazen” and “a premeditated and pre-planned targeted incident.”

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Not long after the shooting, police recovered the gun they believe was used in the incident. Barnes said the gun, a pistol, was modified to shoot full-auto and was capable of firing 14 rounds in a single second.

“We need to make sure that we are responsible gun owners, and we also need to make sure that those persons who possess weapons like these three incidents we’re talking about now, that we can get those guns and those persons off the street so that they can either do one of two things: Correct their behavior, live fruitful lives and become valued members of the community, or, number two, the court system needs to hold them accountable,” Barnes said.