A published news report is linking a Maine street gang to the gun that was used last year by one of the Boston Marathon bombers. According to the L.A. Times, the 9-millimeter semi-automatic pistol used to kill a Massachusetts Institute of Technology security officer, and seriously wound another officer, was purchased at Cabela's in Scarborough, and passed along to a Portland drug dealer, who is believed to have given it to the alleged bomber.
The L.A. Times cited Justice Department records obtained by the paper that document the source of the gun used by Tamerlan Tsarnaev four nights after last year's Boston Marathon bombing to critically wound a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority police officer in Watertown.
Investigators believe it is the same gun the alleged bomber used to kill an MIT security guard. The serial numbers had been filed down. But according to the L.A. Times, the feds were able to recover the numbers, and concluded that the 9-millimeter Ruger had been purchased by Los Angeles native Danny Sun, who was living in South Portland.
Sun allegedly told investigators he had passed the gun to a Portland gang leader, known on the street as "Icy." But federal authorities know him better as Biniam Tsegai.
"I am familiar from press reports that there is a defendant by the name of Biniam Tsegai named. I cannot comment on any of the information connecting him to anything," says Don Clark, the public information officer for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Portland.
Like the FBI agents in Maine, he could not comment on any specific details that have surfaced in the L.A. Times report, which says that Tsegai refused to talk to police about the Ruger or anything else after his arrest. Tsegai remains in jail awaiting trial on drug charges. Clark says the case is making its way through the state's criminal justice system.
"What I can tell you is that a defendant by the name of Biniam Tsegai was indicted for drug trafficking conspiracy in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine on May 22nd, 2013," Clark says. "That indictment was superseded twice, once on July 10th, of 2013 and once on December 12th of 2013 - but I want to stress that an indictment is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law."
According to the L.A. Times, authorities believe that Tsarnaev's ties to the illicit drug trade in Maine helped finance his six-month trip to the southern Russian republics of Chechnya and Dagestan in early 2012, where he became radicalized. They say that same drug money also may have helped him buy components of the bomb that killed three people and injured more than 260 on April 15, 2013.
Tsarnaev was killed during the manhunt. Also implicated in the bombings is Tsarnaev's younger brother, Dzhokhar, who faces 30 federal charges - although none involving the gun authorities say his brother used in the two shootings following the attack.
The story indicates that the FBI has identified three gangs operating in Maine's largest city. But Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck played down the city's connection as portrayed in the L.A. Times story.
"I do not believe that we have criminal gangs, as they have been described in the media, embedded here in our community in the traditional sense," Sauschuck said. "What we do have, and I will fully acknowledge, is the presence of loosely-affiliated criminal organizations that are primarily focused on the drug trade."
And to that end, Sauschuck says the Portland Police Department has been involved in working on a regional effort to block the flow of guns from Maine to Massachusetts. Last month, police chiefs and mayors from across New England met in Boston to coordinate efforts to curb illegal gun trafficking.
In an interview with public station WBUR, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh challenged all of the state law enforcement agencies to make halting the illegal gun trade a top priority.
"In my campaign, I spoke about not drawing a line in the sand and coming to a compromise," Walsh said. "When it comes to illegal guns, and it comes to drugs, it's time to draw a line in the sand," Walsh said. "We need to stop that."
Maine authorities have scheduled further meetings on the flow of guns among the New England states. But for now, federal authorities are declining comment on the linkage between Maine and the Boston Marathon bomber.