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‘Ghost guns’ seized in Onondaga County after sheriff’s department investigation

Onondaga County Sheriff Toby Shelley announces an arrest after a ghost gun investigation
Jessica Cain
Onondaga County Sheriff Toby Shelley announces an arrest after a ghost gun investigation.

A major investigation in Onondaga County has led to the seizure of seven so-called "ghost guns," and local law enforcement officials say fighting the spread of these weapons is a priority.

Onondaga County Sheriff Toby Shelley said ghost guns are the result of a pipeline of manufacturing and distributing deadly weapons.

“The district attorney and I were in a meeting two weeks ago, strictly about guns, and the ATF was there talking about it, and the biggest challenge is the demand," Shelley said.

The sheriff’s department said a recent investigation that started with the theft of a trailer filled with wheelchairs meant to help people with disabilities play basketball led to the discovery of a ghost gun operation in a home on N. Edwards Ave. in Syracuse.

Detectives said they seized seven ghost-style guns, including four loaded with ammunition, and parts, tools, and kits that could be used to build other firearms. Two men, Hugh O’Donnell, 39, and Justen Elderbroom, 38, are now being charged with second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and third-degree criminal sale of a firearm, among other charges.

Lt. Jesse Welch from the sheriff’s department said it’s important to get ghost guns off of the streets.

"It's not illegal to possess the plastic. You have to modify the plastic in order to make it a functional firearm, and you have to piece it together,” he said. “They're not able to be traced by serial numbers because there's no numbers on them."

Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick said ghost guns are a scourge on the community, and they’re a problem throughout the whole county.

"In 2017, we seized one ghost gun,” he said. “In 2018, we seized nine, and you can see where the numbers are going. Last year, we seized 54."

Fitzpatrick said he’s in contact with New York state Attorney General Letitia James regarding the California-based company that allegedly provided the parts for the ghost guns in this latest case. He said there is legislation pending that is designed to put a stop to potential ghost gun parts being shipped.

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.