Richmond police seized 12 firearms and made 10 arrests on New Year’s Eve as part of a larger operation aimed at stopping violent crime.
Operation Red Ball, the designation given to the 90-day initiative, was prompted by a drive-by shooting in November that killed 14-year-old Rah’quan “Ompa” Logan and 9-year-old Abdul Bani-Ahmad and wounded two men outside OMG Convenience Store at the corner of Creighton and Nine Mile roads.
So far, the operation has netted 87 felony charges, 19 misdemeanors and 40 guns, according to Maj. Ronnie Armstead, including those from the various incidents on Dec. 31.
“All we did was go from hotspot to hotspot, to different locations, targeting violent individuals, targeting violent crimes, targeting weapons,” Armstead said in a Zoom interview Tuesday explaining the operation’s name, Red Ball, which has been used by the department in the past for similar targeted enforcement efforts. “Idea was to put a stop to it ... like a red light.”
Armstead said the 12-officer task force has worked 20 days of the 90-day period, which continues into 2022. Richmond ended 2021 with the highest number of homicides — 91 — in 17 years, according to law enforcement officials. However, the total number of slayings in 2021 is 101, including what police consider “justified” or self-defense killings or accidental deaths.
In an interview last month, Police Chief Gerald Smith said the operation would focus on combating retaliatory violence between neighborhoods. The deadly quadruple shooting that launched the operation involved conflict between Mosby and Creighton courts, according to law enforcement officials.
The New Year’s Eve incidents show a broader reach into neighborhoods across the city. At least three of the arrests stemmed from calls for celebratory gunfire, Armstead said. Locations ranged from Walmsley Boulevard and Hillside Court in South Richmond to Creighton and Whitcomb courts, public housing neighborhoods in Richmond’s East End.
These are “high-crime areas, high-violence areas,” said Armstead, adding that they would continue to target these areas for the duration of the operation.
AR-style rifles and multiple handguns, some equipped with extended magazines and clips, as well as drugs and cash were seized on Dec. 31, according to the department.
Charges ranged from carrying a concealed weapon and reckless handling of a firearm to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possessing a firearm while in the possession of narcotics, Armstead said. But police would not provide the names of those charged, nor list all of the specific charges, citing the ongoing investigation.
Armstead encouraged community members to report illegal firearms to the police, and said tipsters could earn up to $1,000 through the GUN250 program.
Anonymous tips can be made by calling Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000.