Standoff injuring 3 HPD officers draws attention to 'ghost guns'

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The number of fully automatic and so-called "ghost guns" Houston police are submitting to the city's crime lab is rising each day, according to the Houston Forensic Science Center.

The standoff that injured three police officers near downtown on Jan. 27 drew attention to the alarming trend.

"Yes, it's concerning," said Peter Stout, Ph.D., CEO and the president of Houston Forensic Science Center (HFSC). "These are disturbing patterns. The sheer number of guns, we're seeing, number of full-autos, ghost guns. They are not patterns you want to see."

Since 2019, the overall number of guns HFSC received from HPD is on an upward trend. On average, firearm technicians are handling about 500 a month. The highest count was 683 in March 2021.

Among those numbers, fully-automatic guns are on the rise. In 2019 and 2020, HFSC handled 10 each year. In 2021, that number went up to 39.

"Ghost guns" are also trending up. In 2019, HFSC received just three. In 2020, they received 16 and in 2021, they handled 43.

"Ghost guns are typically referred to as guns that are manufactured without a serialized identifier," Stout explained. "They make the guns less traceable."

Ghost guns include 3D-printed guns. Houston police believe Roland Caballero, the suspect in the shootout last week, had guns with 3D-printed parts and according to a criminal complaint, a 3D printer was found in his house after the standoff.

Caballero, 31, now faces both state and federal charges including possessing a machine gun and 3 counts of attempted capital murder of a police officer.

All three officers shot are now out of the hospital, recovering at home, according to police.

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