Prosecutors sent the El Chapo jury home with a bang on Thursday, after a firearms expert spent the afternoon waltzing around the courtroom wielding an AK-47 and a grenade launcher.
The jurors, equal parts entranced and terrified, watched as a unit chief from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms showed off the weapons that Joaquin Guzman and the Sinaloa Cartel allegedly used in in their everyday operations while trafficking drugs.
Before expert Max Kingery entered the courtroom, El Paso Detective Paul Lozano explained his team had followed a suspicious vehicle to a home on 12412 Tierra Bella Drive in January 2010. They obtained a search warrant, and inside found 40 AK-47s, seven bulletproof vests, 80 magazines — and a Christmas tree.
It’s not yet clear from testimony how the home, or the weapons, are tied to Guzman.
But jurors were treated to the gun show anyway, as Kingery told the court how easy it was to turn a semi-automatic gun into an automatic one. All 40 of the seized rifles were brought into the courtroom, wheeled in by agents in evidence carts.
While some members of the panel were transfixed as he stood, less than 2 feet from the jury box, whipping around the rifle, others seemed shell-shocked.
“This won’t fire,” he finally said, before pulling the trigger on one of the AK-47s, sending a resounding click echoing through the courtroom and one of the more frightened jurors shooting back in her chair.
But there was more in store for that juror, as Kingery popped open a hard-shelled case and next whipped out a disabled grenade, and then, a rocket-propelled-grenade launcher.
He balanced the launcher on the edge of the jury box as the explosive testimony continued.
As an additional holiday treat, he also pulled out a machine gun — though none were found in the El Paso home — to explain the difference between shooting a semi-automatic weapon and an automatic one.
Multiple witnesses have testified that Guzman was often surrounded by a crew toting AK-47s, and even allegedly had his own, plated in gold.
The accused drug kingpin has pleaded not guilty to a fusillade of charges, including running an ongoing criminal enterprise, international drug distribution, money laundering, and possessing firearms.
Thursday’s explosive testimony was the last jurors will hear until Jan. 3, when the trial will resume following a holiday break.
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