LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Caison Robinson, like most 14-year-olds in Las Vegas, loves playing outdoors. But that’s a distant memory since May, when a blizzard of bullets put him in the hospital with five gunshot wounds.
For his mother, Takeila Peebles, it’s been difficult since her family came face to face with gun violence.
“He wants to play basketball again,” Peebles said.
However, it has been more than five months since Caison has been able to dribble a ball outside without his mom worrying.
“I never thought I would be that mother sitting with the news talking about my 14-year-old son,” Peebles said.
Stories about gun violence used to be just headlines, but now they’re a new reality for Peebles.
On the afternoon of May 9, Caison and a 12-year-old girl were outside when gunfire rocked a quiet northwest Las Vegas neighborhood near Durango Drive and Elkhorn Road.
Within seconds, the car that Caison and the girl were standing near was struck in a hail of bullets. Five shots hit Caison and the girl was also hit. Neighbors rushed them to the hospital.
“The doctors believed it was a 9mm attached with a switch,” Peebles said.
A switch — the street name for the device — converts a gun to fully automatic. It essentially turns into a machine gun.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) tells 8 News Now that these devices are causing destruction on our streets.
“We see these every week come up in evidence for classification,” according to a special firearms instructor with ATF, who cannot be identified in media reports because of the nature of his job. He said switches are becoming much more available.
“This device is 3D-printed. Plans are downloadable from the internet. Anyone can get it,” the instructor said.
“A third rail magazine that was able to put down 30 rounds in a quarter of a second. So you can imagine if these were being used especially in street crime capacity the devastation that these can bring,” an ATF official said.
Jennifer Cicolani, ATF special agent in charge, said, “You can have multiple targets. You don’t have to have great aim.”
Anyone can be in the line of fire, Cicolani said.
“Particularly here in Vegas, we are working every day online, working with different buy programs,” Cicolani said. But she wouldn’t say ATF is winning. “We do everything we can to mitigate the risks and new trends coming out. I think with technology coming, it’s something we will have to work on.”
And sometimes, technology isn’t even needed to cause catastrophe.
“These things can be made from as simple as a coat hanger,” the ATF instructor said.
“By federal law, this is considered a machine gun, just this piece,” Cicolani said as she showed 8 News Now a small piece of metal.
ATF officials said crime statistics from 2017 to 2021 show a Glock 9mm was the most common gun used. And it’s in these handguns where switches could often be found. Nationally, ATF is seizing more of the switch devices. From 2012 to 2016, 814 switches were recovered. But then from 2017 to 2021, 5,454 were picked up — a dramatic increase.
“The next mass shooting scenario, if it includes one of these devices, the numbers could be a lot higher,” the ATF instructor said.
The ATF wants to emphasize that these switches are illegally being made at home or imported into the country with a Glock stamping on them. “It is a violation of federal law, and we are going to use the law to the best extent we can,” Cicolani said.
Metro Police told 8 News Now these devices are a concern, but they do not have a way to monitor them.
In the last two years, more than 130 “switch” conversion devices have been confiscated in Las Vegas, according to the ATF.
“It is something we take very seriously, and we work with all the realms of the law to make sure we get these off the streets,” Cicolani said.
The ATF said gun switches are common in gang violence and private security firms are often sent to patrol gang-ridden areas in the valley.
“We are doing the best that we can to prepare our security officers to be out in the field,” Jonathan Alvarez, CEO of Protective Force International, said.
Alvarez said he invested in ballistic shields for his officers to protect them from the line of fire.
For Peebles, the threat of another violent shooting happening again will always be there.
“It doesn’t matter where you live, it could happen to you,” Peebles said.
Her son Caison survived, as did the other teen. But recovery hasn’t been easy.
“I look at him and say he is my miracle child,” she said.
Currently, Caison is home recovering from his injuries and just started his freshman year in high school.
As for those responsible for this shooting, 17-year-old Hakeem Collette was arrested and sentenced to two to 10 years behind bars.