Chicago elementary teacher charged in guns case
Aug. 31, 2017
CHICAGO (AP) — A Chicago Public Schools special education teacher was charged Wednesday with attempting to provide ammunition, guns and gun accessories to known felons.
Brent Turpin is charged with conspiracy to dispose of a firearm and ammunition to a felon, and with disposing of ammunition to a felon.
Turpin, 53, taught at Kershaw Magnet School in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood, an area that has one of the city's highest rates of gun violence.
Turpin's effort to supply weapons to juveniles was foiled by a cooperating informant who helped investigators gather evidence, authorities said. The federal complaint alleges one juvenile, referred to as "Juvenile A," aided Turpin in the illegal trade. It said Turpin was Juvenile A's guardian.
Turpin's attorney denied the charges.
"We're going to answer the government's charges, and hopefully after a thorough process he'll be exonerated," said Lawrence Wolf Levin.
In a statement, Chicago Public Schools said it found the charges against Turpin disturbing, especially because it said most of the district's employees embrace the opportunity to make a positive difference in the community.
"The employee in question has been removed from his position while the investigation proceeds, and our staff is focused on supporting the school community during this difficult time," the school district said.
Prosecutors said the informant is a friend of the juvenile that accompanied Turpin to an Indiana gun show in June. Authorities say Turpin worked to secure a firearm for the informant at the show.
"If they ask you if you're from Indiana, say yes," Turpin instructed the informant, according to the complaint. "If they say where (are) you from, say like, say South Bend or something, or Indianapolis," Turpin said, according to the complaint. Turpin couldn't obtain a weapon because Turpin refused to present his driver's license, prosecutors said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ankur Srivastava said during a detention hearing that Turpin is believed to have dealt firearms and ammunition "to felons, youths and gang members" on several occasions. He also said a 15-year-old boy had been shot and wounded in the basement of Turpin's home last Thanksgiving weekend.
"We as a society trusted him to take care of our most vulnerable children," Srivastava said. "This is someone who is responsible for children, who has a child shot in his basement and what does he do? Not only does he not call the police, he drops the victim off at the hospital."
Levin said he was unaware of any previous arrests or disciplinary action taken against Turpin, who has worked in Chicago's public school system for 10 years. He also said he didn't know if Turpin was married or had children.