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Authorities arrest Dallas-area gun trafficker who used license to carry to skirt background checks

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Jordan Vonderhaar
/
The Texas Tribune
Federal authorities say Demontre Antwon Hackworth of Dallas bought nearly 100 handguns through straw purchases and illegally sold them.

The Department of Justice says the weapons illegally sold by Demontre Antwon Hackworth, 31, were later used in over a dozen crimes, including the killing of a 21-year-old Black transgender woman.

Authorities have arrested a Dallas man who allegedly bought and illegally sold almost 100 guns that were later used in several North Texas shootings, including the killing of a 21-year-old Black transgender woman, the U.S. Justice Department announced Tuesday.

Demontre Antwon Hackworth, 31, is accused of illegally dealing in firearms after selling at least 92 firearms, most of which were handguns. He was arrested Friday.

Hackworth is also facing jail time for allegedly lying that he was purchasing the guns for himself. Authorities said Hackworth has a Texas license to carry a handgun, which allowed him to purchase guns without a background check. While federal gun sellers are required to perform background checks, Texans with a license to carry are exempted. It’s unclear whether a background check or repeated checks would have stopped the suspect from buying the guns.

Hackworth bought 75 guns from a single Waxahachie dealer over the span of six months, which has since lost its license, according to the Justice Department. Hackworth allegedly sold the guns without a federal firearm license to do so and without conducting background checks. He was also allegedly caught lying to sellers about his purchases, which he bought as a straw purchaser — a buyer who obtains a gun for someone prohibited from buying one themselves.

Although private gun sales are legal in Texas and do not require a background check, it is illegal to regularly deal guns without a seller’s license.

Hackworth’s arrest comes as the Justice Department says it is cracking down on criminal gun-trafficking pipelines and as background checks and other gun control measures are being discussed in the aftermath of the Uvalde school shooting and supermarket shooting in Buffalo, New York.

“There are real consequences when individuals illegally engage in the business of buying and selling firearms,” Jeff Boshek, a special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Dallas Field Division, said in a statement. “ATF will continue to use all available resources to strategically target and identify illegal firearms sales.”

Law enforcement recovered 16 guns in homicide, aggravated assault and drug trafficking incidents that could be traced back to Hackworth’s purchases, authorities said. Nearly all of them were recovered within a year of being purchased, with one being located after a week.

If convicted, Hackworth faces up to 35 years in federal prison.

The firearms were linked to multiple shootings in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, authorities said.

One of those shootings was tied to the Sept. 30 murder in Arlington of Kiér Laprí Kartier, a 21-year-old Black transgender woman from Dallas, The Dallas Morning News reported. She was found in her car with a gunshot wound to the chest in the parking lot of an apartment complex, just about two months after Hackworth bought the gun.

Transgender people, and particularly those who are Black, are at higher risk of violence stemming from transphobia and racism. LGBTQ advocates have pointed to an outsized number of killings in the transgender community.

“It is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color — particularly Black transgender women — and that the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and unchecked access to guns conspire to deprive them of employment, housing, healthcare and other necessities,” Human Rights Campaign said in a statement this year.