Shooting Suspects Face Federal Charges

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Knoxville (WVLT) - For now, police are saying very little on the record.

But they've passed along enough that federal prosecutors are following two shootings in East Knoxville closely.

The suspects, and there may be as many as three, could be targets to prosecute under a five-year-old federal get tough program.

In this case, Tennessee could and likely would charge murder, but in this case and others using the gun, in the crime compounds the time.

"Whatever happened here at Walter P, believe me, its not the people who live here, its the people who don't live here," says one Walter P. Taylor Homes resident who asked not to be identified.

Off camera, some friends and neighbors say plenty about the latest victim of gun-fire in the Walter P. Taylor projects.

But this day, they simply add flowers, to the family's memorial, where Richard Lamar Cozart fell.

"He was just trying to get his life together, that's all it was," the resident says.

"We believe that the suspect, suspects, obviously knew the victim," says Darrell DeBusk from the Knoxville Police Department.

So did the law, four arrests the past two years for robbery, assault, drug possession and weapons. All dropped for inability to prosecute.

But the feds Project Safe Neighborhoods may give the law an extra stick to hit his killers.

"With the use of federal gun laws, we don't actually have to catch them committing that crime if we can get em on a gun violation," says Deputy District Attorney General John Gill.

In some cases, it turns misdemeanors into five or ten-year felonies.

"They're certainly aware of their own cohorts, whom they see just vanish when they're convicted because they're not going to return to the streets for substantial periods of time," says US Attorney James R. Dedrick.

Federal prosecutors say Safe Neighborhoods is directly responsible for cutting violent crime in East Tennessee more than 18% in 2003, about 4% in 2004.

Less clear though is why it rose last year.

"The tragedy is, with some of the people committing these crimes, they don't play far enough ahead to be deterred," says Dedrick.

"They want to take care of it themselves, the trouble is, in the meantime, the kids on the streets or a person on their porch gets hit," says the resident.

Was Richard Lamar Cozart a victim of a new attack, or a payback?

Neighbors won't say, but as to his killers, "God do not like ugliness, I wish nothing on no one, but what goes around comes around," the resident says.

There is, police and prosecutors admit, a code of the street. Some people won't talk, either for fear of retaliation, or secure in knowing the street will take care of it.