Crime

Gun manufacturer let illegal arms dealer sell murder weapon in KC, lawsuit claims

The parents of a 29-year-old Kansas City man who was killed in a 2016 shooting have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a firearms manufacturer and the gun dealer who allegedly sold the handgun that was used in the shooting.

The civil lawsuit was filed in Jackson County Circuit Court by Alvino and Beverly Crawford on behalf of their son, Alvino Dwight Crawford Jr., alleging negligence on the part of Jimenez Arms, a Nevada-based gun manufacturer.

It accuses the manufacturer of knowingly selling firearms to an illegal dealer and failing to alert authorities even when they knew the firearms they sold were part of an illegal gun trafficking ring.

“Our son had value and he experienced things in life that most people never experienced and he was headed in the right direction,” said Alvino Crawford. “Society was robbed of the impact he could have made.”

The lawsuit noted Kansas City has one of the highest homicide rates in the United States. Guns manufactured by Jimenez Arms are often recovered from crime scenes, the petition says. Federal prosecutors have filed criminal cases where Jimenez Arms weapons were allegedly used in carjackings, high-speed car chases, drug deals and bank robberies, the plaintiffs said.

“The plaintiffs continue to have anxiety that another member of their family or community, in and around Kansas City, will be victimized by the gun violence epidemic that has been substantially exacerbated by Jimenez Arms,” the lawsuit said.

Other defendants in the lawsuit include Green Tip Arms, a Missouri company with ties to Raytown, and its owner Christopher Bendet. Also named as a defendant is James Samuels, a former Kansas City fire captain who faces federal charges of illegally selling numerous firearms to people he allegedly knew were felons.

Samuels, 53, allegedly purchased from Green Tip Arms the gun later used to kill Crawford.

“Dwight Crawford’s murder is emblematic of a significant gun violence problem in Kansas City, Mo., which has been exacerbated by the defendants in this action and other dealers which operate their businesses carelessly,” the lawsuit says.

Jimenez Arms, Green Tip Arms and Bendet could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday.

The plaintiffs are represented by local attorneys as well as attorneys from Everytown for Gun Safety, a national gun violence prevention organization.

The lawsuit does not say how the weapon moved from Jimenez Arms to Green Tip Arms. But it alleges that Samuels purchased the weapon from Green Tip Arms on April 7, 2016.

Samuels allegedly transferred the firearm to a woman who kept the weapon in her home. The gun was allegedly accessible to several people, including a convicted felon, Jerome Walker, 41, and Devon Davis, who was 16 at the time.

Crawford was killed 89 days after Samuels purchased the weapon, according to the lawsuit.

Walker and Davis were each later charged in the July 5, 2016 shooting death of Crawford. Prosecutors allege Walker struck Crawford with a baseball and that as Crawford stumbled away he was fatally shot by Davis.

Crawford was adopted when he was 3 years old and grew up in the Kansas City area. He attended Ruskin High School but did not graduate. His parents described Crawford as a jokester who loved the Kansas City Chiefs, enjoyed drawing and had plans to become a barber.

In 2006, Crawford pleaded guilty to first-degree attempted robbery and served in a Missouri prison from October 2006 to June 2009 and again from August 2009 to February 2011 for violating probation. The day before was killed, Crawford helped feed the homeless at Hope Faith Ministries near downtown.

“It was like he didn’t get a chance to fulfill the destiny that I believe God had for him,” said his mother, Beverly Crawford. “It was so unfair, so unfair. He had paid for everything that he had done.”

The civil lawsuit said the gun trafficking ring that involved Jimenez Arms and Samuels “injected a steady supply of unlawfully obtained firearms into the Kansas City area over a five-year period.”

Jimenez Arms began selling firearms to Samuels in November 2013, according to the suit. It says Samuels had previously purchased guns at a gun show but told Jimenez Arms that he wanted to buy directly from the company.

Between 2013 to 2015 Samuels purchased 32 guns directly from Jimenez Arms even though the company knew Samuels did not have a federal firearms license and that he intended to re-sell those guns.

The lawsuit alleges that by illegally selling firearms to Samuels, Jimenez Arms helped him acquire a reputation as a gun trafficker in the Kansas City area.

In some cases, Samuels transferred guns to people he knew were convicted felons, including some who told him they planned use the weapons to commit crimes, including homicides, according to the lawsuit.

The gun dealers chose not to report Samuels’ suspicious and illegal activity to authorities and continued to profit from them, the lawsuit says.

The whereabouts of many of those guns remain unknown, the plaintiffs alleged.

According to the lawsuit, Samuels typically purchased guns from Jimenez Arms for around $100 to $150 and illegally resold them for $200 to $300.

At the time Samuels was arrested on Oct. 4, authorities recovered 28 firearms from his Kansas City home.

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Glenn E. Rice covers crime, courts and breaking news for The Kansas City Star, where he’s worked since 1988. Rice is a Kansas City native and a graduate of the University of Central Missouri.
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