The Five-seven semi-automatic pistol, capable of piercing body armor, is already a favored weapon of the Mexican cartels. Now there are signs that this "cop killer" gun has found its way into the Colombian black market.
A spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has described the Five-seven as "the weapon of choice" for Mexico's criminal organizations. The weapon first gained the attention of Mexico law enforcement after it was used during attacks against police officers in Mexico City in 2007. With an estimated $5,000 value on Mexico's black market, it is colloquially known as a "mata-policia," or cop killer. It is believed to make its way into Mexico primarily from the country's northern neighbor, as it available for purchase by civilians in some US gun stores.
As Medellin-based newspaper El Colombiano reports, cartridge casings from the gun have appeared in several crime scenes in Medellin, indication that gun traffickers have managed to import the pistol into Colombia. The gun is an increasingly popular item among the city mafia, known as the Oficina de Envigado. Most notably, the Five-seven was used during a nightclub massacre in July 2010, which left eight people dead. During a routine house raid in a Medellin neighborhood last January, police reported finding two Five-seven pistols alongside a stash of marijuana and coca base, watched over by a 19-year-old guard.
The other surprising find during the routine raid was a FN PS90 compact assault rifle, said to belong to a street gang loyal to Medellin mafia boss Erick Vargas Cardenas, alias "Sebastian." Like the Five-seven, the automatic military version of the rifle was initially developed by NATO in the early 90s, in order to provide highly powerful and adaptable weapons for special forces and law enforcement. The subautomatic PS90 was released in 2005, and is available for civilian purchase in the US. Just as criminal groups were attracted to the Five-seven's ability to penetrate body armor, the PS90 also provides several advantages: small and compact, it is ideal for urban warfare and requires little maintenance.
With both the Five-seven and the PS90 now apparently available in Medellin, it is possible that the city's various warring groups could seek to turn the tide in their favor by stocking up on "cop-killers," still not used by Colombian police. Last year rival gang the Urabeños was able to make inroads in Medellin's barrios, thanks to their stockpiles of high-power weaponry like AK-47s and M-16s. For gangs looking to replicate the Urabeños' success, it is possible that the Five-seven and PS90 could become some of the most sought-after items in the black market.
Helping the mystique of these weapons is their popularity among the most violent figures in Colombia's underworld. This includes paramilitary warlord Miguel Angel Mejia Munera, and slain Urabeños leader Juan de Dios Usuga, alias "Giovanni," both of whom were users of the PS90 and the Five-seven, respectively.
If Colombian gangs are ready to buy greater numbers of "cop-killers" from gun traffickers, those best poised to profit may be those who work the Medellin-Miami connection. According to El Colombiano, the PS90 confiscated by Medellin police in January was traced back to a Miami gun store, Miami Police Supply. By tracing the weapon's serial number, authorities were able to ascertain that it was purchased from the Miami store November 20, 2010. The two Five-sevens seized during the same raid were also traced back to Miami Police Supply, purchased on two separate days in September 2011. The buyers may be US citizens whom Colombian gun traffickers pay to purchase the weapons on their behalf, the El Colombiano report says.
After the weapons are purchased in Miami, they are sent to Colombia, sometimes disassembled and hidden among auto parts or other common mechanical household items. Police say that they believe the weapons enter Medellin by land from the Uraba region, bordering the Caribbean sea, El Colombiano reports.
Gun traffickers have a solid economic incentive to handle "cop-killer" weapons. There is also good reason to base their operations in Miami, where there is a large Colombian population, and where a Five-seven costs between $855 to $1,050 dollars. In the Colombian underworld, the same weapon may sell for up to $8,490, police told El Colombiano.
Medellin's gangs are eager to obtain a product which the Miami-Medellin connection seems prepared to supply, looking for any advantage over their rivals.