Lawsuit Targets Gun Dealer In Police Officer's Murder

Family of Thomas E. Wortham IV, Brady Center, sue Mississippi gun dealer and traffickers

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The parents of Chicago police officer Thomas Wortham are going after the man they say sold the murder weapon and the gun trafficker who brought it to Chicago. Christian Farr reports. (Published Wednesday, Apr 24, 2013)

    The family of a slain Chicago Police officer has joined forces with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in suing the Mississippi business that sold the murder weapon, and the individuals who trafficked it to Chicago.

    Investigators say Thomas E. Wortham IV was at his parents Chatham home in May 2010 when he was approached by four men who tried to steal his motorcycle. Wortham was killed in the ensuing shootout.

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    Thomas Wortham was a first lieutenant in the Army National Guard and had returned from a deployment to Iraq on March 30. (Published Friday, May 28, 2010)

    The lawsuit names Mississippi gun dealer Ed's Pawn Shop and Salvage Yard, along with Michael Elliot and Quawi Gates.

    Elliot bought the .45 caliber Smith & Wesson handgun used in the murder at the Mississippi pawn shop in 2007, and sold it to Gates for $100. He served six months in jail for supplying false information on a federal firearms form by stating he was the intended user.

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    Gates, who ATF officials said supplied the Gangster Disciples gang with guns, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for gun trafficking.

    At a Wednesday news conference attended by the victim's family, Brady Center director John Lowy said Wortham's death was a "foreseeable consequence."

    "This lawsuit will place a price on irresponsible conduct," Lowy said while stressing the Wortham family is not anti-gun. "A good man with a gun could not be saved by a gun."

    The victim's mother, Carolyn Wortham, said she's filing the lawsuit because she doesn't "want any other mother or family to go through this."

    "He survived two tours of duty in Iraq, but couldn't survive the South Side streets of Chicago," Wortham said.

    The pawn shop owner and defendant in the case, Bruce E. Archer, was not available for comment, but NBC 5 spoke via phone with an employee, Bill Howe, who said it was the first they'd heard about the suit.

    "I don't think it's right. We didn't do anything wrong by the laws of Mississippi," Howe said when informed of the lawsuit. "It's like selling someone a baseball bat and they go out and kill someone with it. We had no intention of that happening."

    Howe said he can't sell a weapon to anyone unless they're a state resident and pass an online background check.

    "We do what the ATF tells us. If they say let him have it, we have to go by what they say," Howe said.

    The lawsuit includes eight counts against the defendants, including negligence and negligent entrustment by Ed's Pawn Shop. The plaintiffs maintain that the seller should have suspected that Elliot was making a straw purchase, because he bought several guns with cash.

    In December, the Brady Center sued Armslist.com on behalf of the family of 36-year-old Jitka Vesel, a DuPage County woman who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 2011.