A Chicago Public Schools special education teacher was charged Wednesday with illegally supplying an extended handgun magazine, laser sight and two boxes of bullets to a convicted felon cooperating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, authorities said.
Brent Turpin, a 53-year-old teacher at Kershaw Elementary in Englewood, is charged with conspiring to distribute firearms and ammunition to a known felon as well as distributing ammunition to a known felon, according to the US Attorney’s Office.
If convicted Turpin could face up to 15 years in federal prison.
Lawrence Levin, Turpin's attorney, says he and his client are hoping for "exoneration" and he believes further investigation is needed.
"We're going to vigorously contest these particular charges," Levin told reporters at the Dirksen Federal building.
A complaint filed in federal court describes Turpin’s efforts to “secure a firearm” for the FBI informant along with “Juvenile A” at an Indiana gun show. The informant, the complaint states, was wearing a wire during the trip to the gun show. Juvenile A lived at Turpin’s South Side home, the complaint states, and it is believed that Turpin is the juvenile’s guardian.
Levin said he was uncertain how Turpin became the guardian of the juvenile.
Turpin allegedly instructed the informant on what to say and do while purchasing the gun, authorities said.
“If they ask you if you’re from Indiana, say yes,” Turpin told the informant, according to the complaint. “If they say where [are] you from, say like, say South Bend or something, or Indianapolis,” Turpin said, according to the complaint.
Turpin and the informant met with a gun dealer in June to buy two Glock handguns, according to the complaint. The deal did not go through because Turpin refused to show his driver’s license to the gun seller, the complaint states.
Turpin did, however, supply ammunition, the laser sight and extended magazine to the informant in August, the complaint says.
“As part of its investigation, the FBI has obtained information that Turpin is supplying firearms and ammunition to felons as well as to juveniles,” the complaint reads, explaining its enlisting the informant’s assistance.
The informant told “Juvenile A” that he and other gang members needed guns to protect themselves, the complaint states. The juvenile then told the informant he would tell Turpin to get a gun for him, the complaint states.
In a recorded conversation between Turpin and the informant, the complaint says, the CPS teacher instructed the informant to “wipe those [bullets] down before you put them in anything … [Juvenile A] touched them.”
Authorities say Turpin gave those instructions because he was concerned the juvenile’s fingerprints may be on the bullets and he did not want them traced back to himself or the child if they were used in a crime.
According to the complaint, Turpin was also involved in conversations about procuring firearms in Oklahoma and Michigan.
Turpin, who was arrested Tuesday morning at his home, appeared at a detention hearing Wednesday afternoon.
Asked about Turpin's desire to return to work at CPS, Levin said he thinks his client "has done an excellent job in the community" and the kids he has worked with "have shown degrees of excellence."
Levin said he was unaware of any previous arrests or disciplinary action taken against Turpin, who has worked for CPS for 10 years. He also didn't know if Turpin was married or had children.
"The vast majority of CPS employees embrace their unique opportunity to serve as positive role models for young people in our city, which makes these allegations so disturbing and out of the ordinary for our school district," said CPS spokesman Michael Passman in an emailed statement. "The employee in question has been removed from his position while the investigation proceeds, and our staff is focused on supporting the school community during this difficult time."
Turpin has been a special education teacher at Kershaw since 2010. He previously worked at Lathrop and Charles Hughes elementary schools in 2008 and 2009 respectively.
Turpin was suspended Wednesday after CPS received notice of the allegations.
Levin also said Turpin had forfeited his Firearms Owner Identification card to the court. He was uncertain if Turpin currently owned any guns.
He is being held at Linvingston County Jail, Levin said.