ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Investigators are expressing their concern after detectives discovered devices that change guns into fully automatic weapons in the home of a known gang member.
“An auto sear is simply a piece of equipment that modifies the gun to make it fire like a machine gun,” Orange County Sheriff John Mina said.
Investigators told News 6 they suspect the devices — also known as giggle switches — were used in at least two shootings.
The first happened on July 20, 2020, at a home on Merriewood Drive, where in one incident detectives found 80 shell casings from a shotgun or a rifle.
The second happened four days later at a home on Woodman Way.
Investigators reported finding 70 shell casings there.
They said both homes housed the families of known gang members.
“People were illegally outfitting handguns and rifles with these auto sears all in an effort to spray as many rounds as possible and as quickly as possible,” Mina told News 6. “It’s extremely dangerous and, unfortunately, we’ve had cases in our own community where innocent victims have been shot and hurt and killed in some cases.”
In June, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms arrested a man in Haines City and charged him with possession of a machine gun.
A confidential informant told federal authorities Marc Anthony Hayes sold him auto sears in Kissimmee that were manufactured using a 3D printer.
According to court records, the informant was quoted a price of $35 each.
ATF field agents tested them, and they said they functioned as machine guns.
According to the ATF, “auto sears constitute a machine gun because these are parts designed and intended solely and exclusively… for use in converting a weapon into a machine gun.”
Hayes agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors in October.
He pleaded guilty to transferring a machine gun and possession of a machine gun.
He faced a maximum of ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Mina said even with Smith’s arrest and the arrests of other gang members on racketeering charges he fears there are more of the devices out on the streets.
There is also concern the violence may overflow to suburban communities.
“During our investigation, (Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation) served search warrants in Seminole County,” MBI Director Ron Stucker said at a news conference in early June. “We served search warrants in gated communities in Lake Nona and we served search warrants on the east side of Orange County.”
If you have any information that could help investigators, call the Orange County Sheriff’s Office at 407-254-7000.