million mom march mother busted w/ illegal gun, drugsby Nancy
million mom march mother busted w/ illegal gun, drugs
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Anti-gun activist arrested after firearm found at home
By JASON PISCIA
A Springfield woman who began lobbying against gun violence after her son was shot to death in 2002 was arrested last week when police allegedly found an illegal gun and drugs in her home.
Annette "Flirty" Stevens, however, said Monday she's innocent, and the arrest is an attempt by police to get her to give up information about unsolved crime in the city.
The handgun, which had a scratched-off serial number, and drugs allegedly were discovered Friday morning inside Stevens' home in the 2500 block of South 15th Street. Authorities said they obtained a search warrant for the residence as part of an ongoing investigation of a recent series of drive-by shootings. No one has been hurt in the gunplay.
Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives assisted in the search.
Although police declined to get into specifics, Stevens has a "close connection" with one of two feuding groups involved in the shootings, Lt. Rickey Davis said Monday.
Stevens, 47, who is free on bond, admitted she does know some of the people allegedly involved in the drive-by shootings. But she said she only knows them because her interest in stopping gun violence - sparked by the shooting death of her son Jericko Clark, 20, on July 13, 2002 - has her in the neighborhoods talking to the youths.
She said the police wrongly believe she is the ringleader of the shootings, and they think she has information to solve those cases, as well as others, including the December murder of Andre Ayers, 22, who was shot as a procession of cars wound through the city's east side.
"This is a blatant attempt to try and undermine me," she said Monday night. "... They can't solve these crimes, and I'm familiar with these individuals, so they're going after me because I socialize with all of them."
Davis said detectives working on the drive-by cases - which already have resulted in four arrests - began taking a closer look at Stevens after her name came up in interviews with witnesses and informants.
"Basically, she has a close connection with individuals that have been involved in one side of these two groups that are feuding," Davis said, declining to elaborate.
After finding the handgun and drugs, police arrested Stevens at her job.
Stevens said she believes the search warrant was obtained illegally. She said no drugs were found in her home. And as for the gun, she admits to having it in the house. But she said it belonged to her son. She didn't find it until six or seven months after he died. Not knowing what to do with it, she wrapped it up, put it in a drawer and forgot about it.
Contacted later, Davis said he had no comment on Stevens' statements.
Since her son's death, Stevens has become involved in the anti-gun-violence movement. She helped establish and is president of a Springfield chapter of the Million Mom March, an organization that aims to prevent gun violence.
Last fall, she appeared with other anti-gun advocates at a Statehouse news conference to urge federal officials to renew a ban against semiautomatic assault weapons.
Jonathan Lackland, Midwest regional director of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the march's partner organization, said he was shocked to hear about Stevens' arrest.
He wished to withhold comment on the case until he learned more about it, but he did say he knew Stevens was dedicated to the cause.
"I know Miss Stevens, and I know her character," Lackland said. "I know after the death of her son, it really prompted her to jump full force into activism in terms of gun-violence prevention.
"She has been a staunch supporter of gun-violence-prevention measures," Lackland added. "She has lived by (the theme of) 'I don't want anyone to go through the pain and misery I have gone through. I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy.'"
Stevens has not been formally connected to any crime directly related to the drive-by shootings. But Friday's discoveries could lead to her being charged with defacing the identification marks on a handgun, manufacture/delivery of a controlled substance and having no valid firearm owner's ID card, police said.
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