“The Feds Have Come Knocking In Mayfield” — Collaborative Effort Cracks Down On Crime

Sep 18, 2018

Federal, state and local law enforcement officials announced on Tuesday in Mayfield the first round of indictments from a collaborative effort to crack down on crime in the region. 

U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky Russell Coleman named five individuals facing a total of 14 charges in connection to the sale of guns and drugs in Mayfield. Coleman said ‘Project Safe Neighborhoods’ is “not going anywhere” and said more indictments are coming. 

"The feds have come knocking in Mayfield along with our law enforcement partners from across the Purchase," Coleman said in a release. Coleman described numerous law enforcement agencies working together in Graves County.

The collaboration began in spring 2017 after a series of shootings in a three-week period in Mayfield that police say are part of a coordinated criminal effort. Investigations are still underway. 

A federal grand jury in Paducah returned 14 charges in five indictments:

  • Gabriel Vejar, 21, is charged with one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
  • Keith Holliman, 26, is charged with a total of six counts. The charges include knowingly possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number, possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute, carrying a firearm during and in relation to drug trafficking and being an illegal recipient of a firearm by a person under indictment. 
  • Ahmad Perry, 28, is charged with two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
  • Gertrudis Vargas, 42, is charged with possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm. 
  • Kevin Gray, 45, is charged with three counts. He is charged with two counts of a prohibited person in possession of a firearm and one count of sale of a firearm to a felon. 

All of the individuals are from Mayfield. They are in federal custody and detained in various locations.

Flanked by law enforcement, Coleman said his work involves 53 counties, but described a personal connection to Mayfield in that his parents grew up in the community. In reminiscing on businesses that were once located downtown, he said there's a lot of things missing. 

"One of the things missing in this community is a sense of peace. Is a sense of ability to raise your family like my parents were raised in a safe community. That troubles me. I can tell you it troubles the men and the women on my left and my right. And you hear from us today a solemn commitment to address this. To address violent crime in this community,” Coleman said.

Special Agent in Charge of ATF Stuart Lowery in Mayfield, Ky.
Credit Matt Markgraf / WKMS
"These guns are taken off the street of Mayfield and Graves County." Officials said all of these guns are from recent investigations in the city and county.Credit Matt Markgraf / WKMSEdit | Remove

Special Agent in Charge of ATF Stuart Lowery pointed to numerous guns on displayed on a table and asked the audience to consider the number of crimes prevented now that the guns no longer in the hands of violent offenders.

The guns presented represent "a number of investigations," said Lowery. He said some of the guns were involved in the indictments. Coleman added that he believed that all of the firearms are from recent investigations in Mayfield and Graves County. 

Mayfield Chief of Police Nathan Kent said the work involved in the announcement is the result of a collaboration between a federal and regional collaboration following the spring 2017 shootings. "If you engage in this type of illegal conduct that promotes fear and violence in our community, then you can expect similar results as to what we've announced today," he said. 

Mayfield Chief of Police Nathan Kent
Credit Matt Markgraf / WKMS

Kent said police identified that the shootings were linked together and part of a nexus was a coordinated criminal effort. He said the five indictments are "categorically" linked to the shootings and are believed to be linked together, but did not offer specifics because investigations have not yet concluded.

Coleman said the need for collaboration extends from "Lowes to Louisville." He said the gang problem in Louisville has driven up the homicide rate. "The effort that's pushing back, that's targeting the gangs, is a blended, federal, state and local effort." Rural, suburban and urban jurisdictions are requiring different skillsets offered by different agencies.

He also said the federal system has tools not available to state prosecutors, such as immediate detention, a lack of parole and mandatory minimums. "The average sentence in a federal gun prosecution - the average sentence in the prosecutions we're talking about from this podium is six to eight years. If we have an offender with a significant criminal history you're looking at 15 years in federal prison without parole," he said. 

The five individuals indicted have had initial appearances and what's next for them "depends on their willingness to cooperate," said Coleman. He added that there's an incentive for those to cooperate in the federal system and hopes that the five indicted decide to plea or be of assistance.