INDIANAPOLIS — The federal conviction of a repeat offender from Indianapolis is the latest case brought forth and successfully prosecuted as part of an initiative named in honor of fallen IMPD Officer Breann Leath.
Officer Leath was shot and killed while responding to a domestic disturbance on Indy’s east side on April 9, 2020. The military veteran, who served with IMPD for 2.5 years, was just 24 and left behind a young son, Zayn.
Breann’s family said she was a fierce advocate for helping others, especially people facing domestic abuse.
“You hear stories about someone paid for somebody’s coffee in front of them and it just keeps going. That’s kind of like how I feel this is. She started something and now it’s been passed on to us and it’s our job to continue that,” said Breann’s mom, Jennifer Leath.
“I think she would be very happy and very proud,” said Jennifer. “She would look at it like, there’s one less person that’s hurting somebody else.”
In Oct. 2020, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) announced in partnership with IMPD and the U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of Indiana, an initiative in Officer Leath’s name. The Law Enforcement Action to Halt Domestic Violence (L.E.A.T.H.) Initiative against men, women and children, was started with the goal of reducing domestic violence in Indianapolis and Marion County.
“In law enforcement one of the most dangerous things that people do is respond to domestic violence offenders and of course we all know that we tragically lost Officer Leath in response to a domestic violence call,” said Zachary Myers, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana.
“I think that honoring her memory and trying to protect the public, trying to protect victims of domestic violence and protecting law enforcement, I think one of the most important things that we can do is get firearms that are unlawfully held out of the hands of individuals that are domestic violence offenders and people involved in domestic violence issues who should never have the guns to begin with,” said Myers.
Under federal law, it is illegal for someone with a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction, someone convicted at the state or federal level, and a person with a final protective order against them, to possess a gun.
The ATF said agents with the agency and ATF Task Force Officers within the Indiana Crime Guns Task Force (ICGTF) take a three-pronged approach to identifying people with a history of domestic violence who are committing crimes by illegally possessing a gun. The approach is done by utilizing Project Safe Neighborhoods with IMPD districts, with agents on the regional crime guns task force, and through NIBIN leads.
Once it is determined if a person’s criminal history qualifies them to meet the criteria, the ATF said one of its task force officers with the ICGTF or an ATF agent will look at the case and work in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana to determine if they’re a viable candidate for federal prosecution.
Once a case is presented, it will be received by one of the Assistant U.S. Attorneys and the case will be examined to determine if it meets three standards for federal prosecution:
- Will the case support a federal charge?
- Is it a compelling federal interest?
- Is there sufficient evidence to prove the case?
This is the standard process when a case is referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of Indiana. If the answer to the three questions is yes, then it is usually submitted to a grand jury for indictment and the case makes its way through the court system.
Officials said the initiative in Breann’s name is not only helping to protect people, but also bring heightened awareness to a massive problem.
“I never had the pleasure of working with or knowing Officer Leath, but from what people who knew and loved her have told me about her and her remarkable service, she was called to law enforcement because she wanted to protect the members of our community, because she understand what people were going through and was trying to help them,” Myers said.
On Wednesday, Myers’ office and the ATF Columbus Field Division announced the sentencing of 50-year-old Bradford Jensen to 30 months in federal prison for illegally possessing a firearm.
Over a 30-year span, Jensen has accumulated 10 felony convictions, including domestic battery, stalking, escape, conspiracy to commit burglary, and two prior convictions for a firearm by a serious violent felon.
“The nature and circumstances of the offense are critically important and we think that the domestic violence background certainly plays into that, but also the history and characteristics of the offender,” said Myers.
He added, “when you have someone who’s choosing to be armed again and again and just not deterred by prior convictions and does not seem to care that the law says they are absolutely prohibited from having a firearm, we know the risk of dangerousness, we know that they have been undeterred by prior convictions, we’re going to bring charges against them federally to hold them fully accountable.”
According to a probable cause affidavit from Oct. 2021, Indiana Parole agents arrived at a home to conduct a scheduled home check on Jensen, a parolee. Jensen’s conditions of his parole stated that if officers or officials have reasonable cause to believe he is in violation of, or imminent danger of being in violation of conditions of his parole, they may conduct a search without a warrant or prior notice.
Documents show he tested positive for methamphetamines on four separate occasions while on parole. After testing positive again, agents conducted a search of the home and discovered a backpack with a handgun holster and digital scales. They also discovered a loaded 9mm handgun, the affidavit shows.
“During the interview, Jensen admitted to being in possession of the firearm that was in the closet, stating he got it from one of his daughter’s friends a day or two ago and that he shot it off into the ground sometime this past week. Jensen stated he got it to protect his 25-year-old daughter from the people threatening to kill her,” the affidavit read.
According to the probable cause affidavit, the serial number of the gun revealed it was not manufactured in Indiana and as a result, would have traveled through interstate or foreign commerce to arrive in the state. On top of Jensen’s sentence of 30 months, a judge also ordered that he be supervised by the U.S. Probation Office for two years following his release.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) for the Southern District of Indiana said there have been at least 25 defendants federally charged with gun crimes since the launch of the initiative.
“In just the last four months we’ve had 11 defendants sentenced in these cases here in federal court,” said Myers.
According to the USAO, those sentences range from 18 months to 15 years behind bars in federal prison for unlawful possession of a firearm.
“I didn’t realize it was that many. I thought maybe a few, but wow,” said Jennifer. “That makes me really happy.”
“Domestic violence is one of the biggest red flags for illegally possessing a gun and illegally pulling the trigger, so we want to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to get those guns out of those people’s hands and those offenders off the street,” said Myers.
While Myers said they consider the successful prosecutions a step forward in addressing the problem and taking guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, he knows they cannot take on every case, mainly because it must meet specific criteria for federal prosecution.
“I also want to be careful to state that because the federal system is much smaller and we bring bigger cases and more impactful cases, we have 28 criminal prosecutors for the southern two-thirds of the state, where there’s many more than that just in Marion County here, so we do have to pick and choose our cases,” said Myers. “The L.E.A.T.H. Initiative is part of picking and choosing because we know we’re never going to bring the number of cases, and aren’t designed to, that we bring in our state and local courts all over the district and state, so on the federal side, we want to make sure that we’re targeting those resources most effectively.”
Myers added, “We really think one of the places where we can have that public safety impact is on these offenders who should not have guns.”
Jennifer said, she agrees.
“It keeps her name alive, it keeps everything what happened and really draws attention to this systematic problem that we’re having. Domestic violence really needs a spotlight on it and unfortunately, domestic violence has done that,” said Jennifer. “I’m happy about it. Any help somebody gets, any relief they receive, it’s icing on the cake. If you were to put icing on this horrible situation, it’s justice.”
Remembering Officer Breann Leath
Stories of the impact Bre had on others have continued to be shared with her family by friends, co-workers, and even strangers, since the day she was killed in April 2020. These stories have helped the Leath family in their healing process, and serve as a reminder of the good Breann left on others as an IMPD officer, a corrections officer, and in her every day life.
“She was the best of the best; the best part of me, the best part of life, and she would always do her best,” said Jennifer.
Bre has been remembered by not only her family, but her colleagues and friends for her smile that could light up a room. Jennifer calls it “infamous.”
Her daughter’s biggest goal in life, Jennifer shared, was to help others. She did it every day and was a friend to every person she met.
“She wanted to make a difference and she absolutely has. She was doing that before she was killed. I think this is a continuation of the good that she gave,” said Jennifer.
Breann also sought to help people facing domestic abuse, something that was personal to her.
“Unfortunately, my kids didn’t grow up in a situation like that, but they have all been victims of that. They were lucky that they didn’t stay long, but all three of my girls at some point have been a victim of domestic violence,” said Jennifer. “Our house was an escape for some of their friends growing up and I think that just made her foundation stronger that she personally was involved in it and saw it growing up.”
Domestic Violence Resources in Indiana
For people in domestic violence situations in need of help, there are many resources in the Indianapolis area that you can reach out to for assistance, including:
People living in Indianapolis can call a free, 24-hour line to be connected with an advocate. That number is 317-210-0866 or you can reach out via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hoosiers are also encouraged to call 211 to connect with an advocate who can help you or your loved one planning to leave an abusive relationship. While connecting with an advocate is the number one recommendation, prevention and intervention advocates say confiding in someone and creating a safety plan, is also key.
The number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline is 800-799-7233 (SAFE) or visit their website to learn more.
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