Friday, May 7, 2010

The Return of the Prodigal Gun

Here's a weird one for you. Seven years ago, a nasty ex-tenant -- during the process of leaving my house for three months' non-payment of rent -- exercised her light-fingering talents by stealing my main handgun: a 6-shot, chrome-plated, Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum revolver, which I'd bought 'way back when in Chicago. Fortunately, I had (the only advantage of gun registration) a thorough description of the gun, which I reported to the cops as stolen.

Well, now: last week I received a form-letter from the Phoenix police informing me that they had my gun at the city impound lot, and if I wanted it back I should show up at the address near Central Ave., during the morning hours, with photo-ID (in other words, my driver's license) and come pick it up. I obliged, and got my gun back -- in a plastic bag with various tags attached. The old silver Smith looked only a little the worse for wear; there was a nick in the chrome on the forward edge of the cylinder, exactly the sort of mark the gun would get if it had been thrown down on hard pavement. Hmmmm.

Another thing I noticed, when I got the old gun home and took a closer look at the tags that came with it, was the "date of recovery". I'd reported the gun stolen in the summer of 2003; the tag said the gun had been found in a "front room" during in investigation for "vehicle theft" in November, 2004. Now it was early May, 2010. Just why had the cops held onto my gun for nearly 6 years?

I take it you're all familiar with the concept of the "throwdown" gun; it's a gun that a cop obtains by some means other than official purchase, which he carries around concealed. In case of an altercation with civilians wherein the cop feels obliged to shoot one of them, he'll throw down the gun on the ground near said shot civilian, so his partner or other cop can pick it up later and claim that the first cop must have shot in self-defense. Of course this trick depends on the cop getting the civilian's fingerprints on the gun, or at least coming up with a good excuse for why his own prints are on it. I saw this trick practiced extensively back when I lived in Chicago. Hmmm...

The first thing I did was phone a local buddy who had once been a local cop, and ask him what he thought. His conclusion was that the gun had probably been kept as evidence in a case that went through several appeals, since the police legally have to hold onto evidence until the last appeal is settled. Since the case was a car robbery, he considered, the robber might have kept on with appeals until his sentence was more than half finished. I mentioned the nick in the cylinder, and my buddy replied that most likely the crook had done it, crooks not having a reputation for taking good care of their equipment. No, he didn't think the cops had kept it for a throwdown. "Phoenix," he reminded me, "Isn't like Chicago." We both knew what he meant.

So the next thing I did was make a note of the case number and phone the Phoenix police information line, from which I was transferred to the evidence department, from which I got the name of the detective on the case. When I finally caught up with him, he claimed that -- from what he could tell from the case notes -- there had been several crooks involved in that car-theft, and the delays and appeals had dragged on and on for years. If I wanted, he said, I could look up the case records myself on the Internet; they're a matter of public record.

Okay, so after talking with him I went up on the Internet, searched for Phoenix, AZ Police, and eventually traced the links to a site that would give me the case records in exchange for a lot of form-filing and a "modest" fee. I also found a commercial site that would get me *any* police records I wanted if I'd subscribe -- again, for a "modest" fee. Well, I didn't have either "modest" fee, so I believe I'll wait until my next money comes in.

All right, so at the moment it looks as if my buddy was correct, the cops really did behave honestly -- Phoenix not being like Chicago -- and my wandering gun had no nastier adventures than being stolen and sold and carted around by a crook. I'm still curious, though. When I get my next money I'll take the silver Smith to a gunsmith for inspection, to see if there are any more clues on it, and I'll pay for a subscription to that records-site. I daresay I can find a lot of interesting tales there, besides whatever is known about the wanderings of my prodigal gun.

--Leslie <;)))>< )O(


Mark Horning said...

Better plan. Bring the Smith to me. (unlike a gunsmith I don't charge) We can go over it with a fine tooth comb, I'll double check the lockup, and I can load you up some decent holowpoints for it.

Otherwise, probably the folks I would trust in your neck of the woods would be Marilyn over at Pistol Parlor.

Oppen said...

"A wandering pistol, I, a thing of balls and patches, of some very odd scratches..."

Glad you got your gun back! Wish I could get the ones I had stolen back!

Aya Katz said...

Leslie, glad you got your gun back.

Why should you pay for a subscription to get access to public records? Who is responsible for that racket?

Ori Pomerantz said...

Aya, probably she can go into the courthouse and get the records for no more than waiting. But it might be a lot of waiting.

Leslie Fish said...

Hi, Mark. I'll take you up on that, soon as I can. Have you got my cell-phone number?

Hi, Op. When/where were your guns stolen? If you didn't have the detailed info to report to the cops, they wouldn't have any obligation to return them -- assuming they ever found the guns, anyway.

Hi, Aya. You have to pay to get into public records these days. This business group will happily do the digging for you -- on any public records that exist -- in exchange for the subscription $$. Since the city clerks themselves charge for anything you ask for, this business is perfectly legit.

Hi, Ori. First I'd have to find which courthouse is involved, then I'd have to go there (which isn't trivial in this sprawled-out town), and then -- yes -- wait around, maybe for days.

I really do think I'll sign up with that search-public-records business, if only to learn just how much of anyone's life these days is a matter of public record.

--Leslie <;)))><

Anonymous said...

You being you, you could write a song!

"Where is my wandering gun tonight..."