Lose a Gun, Gain a Holster

A burglar uses a pry bar to break into a building.
A burglar uses a pry bar to break into a building.

Back in 2019, someone stole a handgun from me. This was my office gun, which I kept in a locked metal briefcase stored in a locked metal cabinet, which was in a locked office in a locked building that had an alarm.

The alarm went off when the thief broke the window and triggered the motion detector, but by the time the police got there it was too late. They pried the cabinet open and smashed the cool briefcase into pieces. It lay empty and dented on the floor. (I think the briefcase was harder to open than the locked cabinet.) It just goes to show you that if someone wants something badly enough, locks will not stop them.

How did the burglar know where the gun was? My best guess is that a disgruntled former employee told them, maybe even sold the information. There were two I could think of.

I guess that’s what you get when people know where you hide your gun. Consider that a lesson.

The next day, the police dusted for fingerprints. I filled out paperwork and gave them the serial number. They filed a police report on the missing gun.

Less than two months later, they caught a guy carrying the gun. He was in the backseat of car that got pulled over for some reason I never learned. They arrested him for possession of drugs, possession of stolen property (my gun), carrying concealed without a license, and possession of a weapon by a prohibited person (he was a convicted felon).

The Trial

I didn’t learn this until three years later when some assistant district attorney called to ask if I could come to court at 10 a.m. in two days and testify that the gun was mine and that some stole it. Wasn’t all that in the police report? I asked. Sure, but he thought it would be better to have me on the stand to be cross-examined.

They were trying to prove that this was the man who stole the gun. If the man they arrested claimed he didn’t know the gun was stolen, the possession of stolen property charges wouldn’t stick. The fact this man had been arrested for breaking into multiple buildings and was convicted at least twice before for robbing restaurants and small business was not proof he had broken into my office. Did they check the fingerprints recovered at the scene of the crime? No, they had never been processed because their state crime lab was “backed up.”

I told the ADA I’d like to help, but I had moved hours away and now lived in another state. I’d have to leave the next day, drive for hours, and stay in a hotel. Depending on what time the case came up and how long it lasted, I’d have to stay another night in the hotel and drive home the next day. They wouldn’t pay for a hotel, so I didn’t think it was worth it. The stolen gun wasn’t my favorite and had already been gone three years. Besides, and I had other guns.

Recovering my Property

It took another year for the property department to contact me to see if I wanted to come pick up my gun. I explained I lived in another state. I asked if my daughter or a close friend who still lived in the city could pick it up for me. They sounded doubtful. So we left it that if I ever came back to the city, I’d let them know and pick it up then. It put it in the back of my mind that if I ever headed that general direction, I’d swing by and get my gun.

Then in December, I got a call from an officer who was working in the Property Department while on light duty and was tracking down owners of guns they could dispose of by returning to the owner. Once again, I went over the details about living hours away. “Maybe we can ship it to your sheriff’s department and you can pick up there,” he stated.

I’d never heard of anything like that. “That would be great!” I said. I heard nothing for three months. Then, out of the blue, my phone rings. It’s a local number, so I answer.

“This is Detective so-and-so. One of my colleagues left a note on my desk to call you about a stolen gun?” My mind races. I hadn’t reported a stolen gun. Caught off guard, I say something intelligent like, “Uh…”

“Back in 2019? In the big city?” he clarifies.

“Oh!” I tell him they had offered to ship it to my local sheriff to save me from driving across the country. Do his office do that? Sure! He’ll call the officer who left a message and coordinate it.

You gotta love the local sheriff.

I Get my Gun Back

The next day, he calls me and says to come pick it up. They shipped it overnight. It’s sitting on my desk right now, in need of a cleaning. For a gun that passed through at least one criminal’s hands, was test-fire to make sure it wasn’t used in any murders, sat in a property room for four years, and bounced back and forth to court, it’s in surprisingly good shape. My fear was that they have mistreated it, and I would get back a piece of junk. Apparently, this criminal took care of his weapons, even stolen ones.

When I got it back, it had a magazine and was in an inside-the-waist band holster. When new, it had come with two magazines, so one was missing; that’s no big deal because I have other magazines that will fit. I know that wasn’t my holster, but the gun fit in it damn well. I’m not sure the loss of a gun for four years is a good trade for a holster, but given no other choice, I’ll take it.

The gun was also accompanied by some paperwork, which showed that the ATF traced the gun, a process that took about a month. Sure enough, it came back to me being the purchaser. Also included was a chain of custody report, which shows the name of the criminal they took it from, the name of the arresting officer, and where the arrest took place. Then it shows it coming in to evidence and being placed into a temporary locker before being transferred in and out of the firearms vault multiple times before finally being shipped back to me.

Slow Justice is Better than No Justice

It may have taken some time, but in the end, the system worked. The police caught the bad guy, he went to trial, and got convicted of two charges, one of which was carrying a concealed weapon. I looked him up on the state’s website and he’s already out on probation. (OK, maybe this part doesn’t work very well.) He’s noted to be a habitual felon with 17 arrests in the past few decades, mostly for larceny, B&E and related offenses. He’s spent more then 10 years in jail. He’d gotten out in 2017 and probably been beglaring his way across the city for two years before they caught him.

I’m just happy to get my gun back. I think I’ll go clean it and lock it up.


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