HAMMOND — A Chicago man accused of helping ambush federal ATF agents last year pleaded guilty to robbery Wednesday afternoon in federal court.
Blake W. King, 20, of Chicago, told U.S. District Court Judge Joseph S. VanBokkelen he took part in a June 7, 2018, assault in Gary’s Emerson neighborhood that left one of two undercover federal officers critically wounded.
King signed a plea agreement in June stating he knew Bernard Graham, 26, of Calumet City, and Raymon Truitt II, 28, of Lake County, intended to rob the agents at gunpoint.
He confirmed in open court to the judge that he participated in a planned robbery of an ATF agent only identified as “M.R.” and admitted the three placed M.R.’s life in jeopardy.
The government and King’s lawyer worked out a deal where King would serve a 10-year prison term in return for federal prosecutors dismissing other felony counts pending against him and not seeking a lengthier prison term.
King, who has been in federal custody since his arrest last year, appeared in court Wednesday in an orange jump suit. He waved at a female in the audience before the hearing began.
None of the other defendants or victims appeared in court.
Graham, who also has been in federal detention since surrendering four days after the robbery, has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to stand trial Nov. 4 in federal court on five felony counts of robbery, assaulting two federal officers, armed violence and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Truitt died June 7, 2018, in the shootout between federal agents and defendants that erupted during the robbery.
A fourth individual, Leondre Smith, 29, of Homewood, Illinois, is charged in Lake Criminal Court with attempting to arrange an illegal gun purchase that led to the shooting. He is free on bond. No trial date has been set.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was conducting an undercover sting operation last June of illicit gun trafficking.
Both Gary and the City of Chicago are annually wracked by deadly gun violence. Lake County has long been identified as a source of illicit guns in Chicago.
ATF agents used a confidential informant to arrange a meeting with a firearms source via cellphone texts to take place about noon June 7, 2018, at a home near Fifth Avenue and Kentucky Street, a blighted residential area northeast of Gary’s downtown.
King admitted he knew beforehand that Raymon Truitt and Bernard Graham were armed and the gun purchase would in fact be a robbery.
Prosecutors allege Truitt and Graham opened fire on two ATF agents outside the Fifth and Kentucky location, shooting one in the chest and arm. That agent was hospitalized and later released.
Van Bokkelen accepted King’s guilty plea and ordered him back to court Dec. 4 for a hearing where he will decide whether to accept the terms of the plea bargain and sentence King.