Chairman Johnson Statement On Milwaukee ATF Storefront Report By Justice Department Inspector General

WASHINGTON — Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, had this to say after the Justice Department Office of Inspector General released a report Thursday detailing the botched storefront operations by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The report included the operation in Milwaukee dubbed “Operation Fearless.”

“Law enforcement agencies should be supported and commended for their efforts to identify and arrest individuals who seek to do harm in our communities,” said Johnson. “Part of that, however, is identifying where those efforts failed, so improvements can be made. Unfortunately, the ATF’s Operation Fearless in Milwaukee was riddled with failures, as the Department of Justice’s Inspector General points out.

“The fact that the operation was compromised and ATF agents’ guns were stolen — and later sold back to the ATF — illustrates how reckless this operation was not only for agents but also the community.

“The report also reveals that one felon sought to sell a revolver to an ATF agent — but delayed because he said he had to ‘go and retaliate against some people that had shot his cousin recently,’ and that he planned to return after he ‘handled that situation.’ The ATF did not detain this felon.  This is unacceptable. I am grateful for the work of the inspector general and will continue to hold the ATF accountable.”


In 2012 ATF agents operated an undercover storefront in Milwaukee that came under intense scrutiny after guns were stolen from the storefront and felons were not being arrested.

The inspector general confirmed in his report that a number of problems existed, including ATF agents’ firearms being stolen, the operation was compromised, and the storefront was burglarized, with $39,000 of property stolen. 

In February 2012 the FBI stopped participating in Operation Fearless because of the looming problems.

According to the report, in July 2012 a felon met with an undercover ATF agent regarding the sale of a revolver and armor piercing bullets.  The felon told the agent “he wanted to keep the weapon” as “he needed to go retaliate against some people that had shot his cousin recently.”   The felon left the meeting without being arrested.  The felon ultimately was arrested in November 2012 by local authorities in Minnesota on charges “unrelated to the storefront.”

In January 2013 Congress called for an investigation into the failed operations of the ATF.

The DOJ OIG report on the ATF undercover storefront operations can be found here.