Friday, April 02, 2010

500 guns missing from TX police evidence room in 'illegal firearms trafficking scheme'

Having written several posts about sloppy practices and corruption in police evidence rooms, color me unsurprised and unamused to discover another SNAFU out of Cleveland in Liberty County (in southeast Texas), recorded by AP Feb 24:

A federal investigation is under way to determine whether some 500 weapons missing from a police department's evidence room are part of an illegal firearms-trafficking scheme.

The guns were discovered missing from the Cleveland Police Department's evidence room during an inventory last year, the Houston Chronicle reported Wednesday. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives declined to discuss the probe, saying it is an ongoing investigation.

Court records show ATF agents recovered 112 of the missing guns while executing a search warrant at a Humble gun shop.

How can one avoid the conclusion that some cop(s) stole hundreds of guns and sold them to gun shops and God knows who else? According to another AP report:

Court documents connect Capt. Harold Kelley of the Liberty County sheriff's department and others to a gun-trafficking scheme. As custodian of the police department's evidence room, Kelley possessed one of two keys. The other key was held by Henry Patterson, who was serving at the time as Cleveland's assistant police chief.

In most police departments the evidence room isn't run by civilian professionals but more frequently by officers who cannot go out on patrol because of injury or disciplinary actions. Seldom are they sufficiently staffed to create meaningful systems of checks and balances, so repeatedly we see the same fact circumstances: Drugs, guns, sex toys, or anything of value stolen and sold rather than destroyed or returned to their owner. No state agency oversees evidence rooms, there are no standards they must meet. Basically anything goes, and particularly in smaller or less professional agencies, often where it goes is out the door.

See related Grits posts:


Anonymous said...

Someone needs to investigate what is going on with evidence in Tyler.

Anonymous said...

wow.. 500 guns. Ok, 50 MIGHT get by an honest cop not paying attention... but 500!?!

And noone else in the department noticed weapons from cases decreasing and not INCREASING?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

There's no way someplace as small as Liberty County should ever have 500 guns in the first place. There's no way there are that many active cases involving firearms. Cleveland, TX is not a big place.

Anonymous said...

"No state agency oversees evidence rooms, there are no standards they must meet. Basically anything goes, and particularly in smaller or less professional agencies, often where it goes is out the door."

While many may not follow them, there are professional standards. See here @

Other Texas standards are covered under Chapters 18 and 59 of the Texas CCP. Specifically Texas CCP 18.19 relates to disposition of seized weapons.

Anonymous said...

How about Dallas County Constables Office "asset" seizure schemes? Where does it all go? Their interest has proven to be other than public safety and more about self funding time and time again. Yet it goes on, and on, and on, and on...

Gritsforbreakfast said...

6:48, thanks for that clarification. The key word was that there are no standards they "must" follow - those guidelines are voluntary and for the most part ignored. While it's good to clarify that best practices exist even if they're not usually followed, I think the characterization in the post was accurate.

Also, if CCP 18.19 is the only legal "standard" governing evidence rooms and guns, that's not really much. It just says that if they've no legal reason to hold the weapon, the owner must request it back within 61 days or a judge must "order the weapon destroyed or forfeited to the state for use by the law enforcement agency." That says nothing about standards for the evidence room - tracking the merchandise, etc..

Anonymous said...

Your welcome Grits. While I don't believe we need any more laws or regulation by some state agency as it relates to property rooms, law enforcment administrators must see the professional standards set out by IAPE and TAPEIT are followed.

I have always been a little shocked that many administrators not only do not conduct annual audits, but also incoming and outgoing Texas sheriff's do not have an independent audit of the property room before leaving office and just after taking office.

I suspect many would be surprised to know how many agencies in Texas have no policy or procedures in place concerning how entrusted properties are to be handled. And the best practices often do not assure that someone might decide to appropriate the property for personal gain.

One other thing and I will close....The article says a sheriff's office captain was custodian of the police department property room. That's a little odd.

Retired LE

Anonymous said...

I guess crooked cops should focus on stealing evidence without serial numbers in the future.

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Hey Grits, thanks for this info.

*My first question is how does it (a gun) make its way into the H.C. Sheriff’s property/evidence room in order to be "checked out" by the court reporter if there are no chain of custody records, police reports and/or documents showing where it came from? BTW, C.R. notes don't show it being checked back in. Tough one, I know.

(I ask due to there being a .38 cal. Rohm listed as a State's Exhibits in my case file but no other records exist.)*I asked my lawyer & he only replied with a letter of rec. for a Full Pardon. I asked the ADA about it and he was sorry that I felt that I was, "wronged by the system."

*My second question is does Art.2.21 allow and provide for Exhibit clerks the duty and responsibility to "personally destroy" firearms?

(I ask due to my additional request for cert. copies of any & all Motions & Orders regarding this Mystery Gun being countered with, "I personally destroyed it, you've been sold the entire case file, the Art. was followed therefore no further documents were created. Goodbye.") Thanks.

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Hey Retired L. E., do you know the answers to the two questions above? Your assistance would be greatly appreciated.

If not? How about this one. If one of the four robbery dets. named in the report planted a weapon in the property room (not on me) wouldn't they list it in the report?

The "Mystery Gun" I seek information on is NOT listed in the police report. Plus, I was on probation at the time of arrest & the Probation Dept. shows no weapons violations.

This "MG" is listed on one of the Three (3) number twos (2) cert. State's Exhibits docs. (Dated seven years apart) that bears the name of the ADA. It is also listed in the court reporter's notes as being "checked out" & that's it. Then of course as mentioned above, the Exhibit clerk got her hands on it and it's gone. Why the Judge allowed it to be placed on the table in front of the jury is anyone's guess. Thanks.

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Sorry about that, I meant to say

There are two (2) certified State's Exhibits documents dated seven (7) yrs. apart. Combined there are three (3) number twos. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I called up a T.V. news station (KXJB) in Fargo, N. Dak. today (4/28/10) and told them of an incident i had back in Aug. 18, 1991 when A Fargo police officer named Mark Lykken told me that he had stolen a hand gun from the police evidence room. And that he carried it in the trunk of his police car so that if he ever shot and killed some one that didn't have a gun on him that he could take that gun he had stolen out of the trunk of his patrol car and place it in the hand of the victim to make it look like he had killed that person in self defense. He (Mark Lykken) also told me that no one would ever believe me if i told them what he had said to me! So i am so Bord now day's because i live in a nursing home. And so i thought i would tell some one about it. And if they don't believe me or if they don't care, then oh well. At least i told some one about it!

Anonymous said...

city of mesquite police department needs to be checked out.I am a commissioned security officer.I had a run in with their sargeant.I was triing to do my job.I reported a possible theft of a vehicle.Their sargeant disarmed me turned my duty belt and my gun into the property room.The property room said they did.nt have it.I found out four years later they have now destroyed it.

Anonymous said...

someone needs to check out the city of Pasadena police dept.I had a felon living next door to me .Who told me he stole my gun.I told the city of Pasadena police dept .The officer told the subject You can either go to jail or give me the gun.He didnt go to jail.The officer told me I could have the gun back if I produced the receipt.I produced the receipt.The property room now says ,they dont have the gun .The police report says no investigation needed.RMS satisfactory property transaction status satisfactory.But the property room still has no gun.

Anonymous said...

something needs to be done about police department property room officers not returning stolen guns to the rightful owners.espeadcly the city of pasadena police department.

Anonymous said...

does anyone out there know whocan contact when property rooms like the city of mesquite and the city of Pasadena property room police departments dont want to return guns to the rightful owners.shigher than the police cheif.