Chester Police Department’s evidence room is under a spotlight of suspicion again after the scope of an AR-10 assault rifle went “temporarily” missing, only to turn up in a high-ranking officer’s vehicle after the missing part was reported gone.
According to sources who spoke only on the condition of anonymity, there were no signs of forced entry into the evidence room and that’s a focus of concern because there are only two keys issued to that room. One key is held by the evidence custodian and the other is held by the police commissioner for “emergencies.”
Police Commissioner Joseph Bail did not return calls seeking comment by presstime.
But other sources within the department say what makes the incident so disturbing, is that this isn’t the first time that one, maybe more, unauthorized people have entered the evidence room and this particular incident implies the security of that critical room may be severely compromised.
“What else is missing? We don’t know,” complained one source. “There are guns from homicides. There’s evidence in there for a bunch of other cases, drugs included; but we don’t know what else is missing.”
Another source also familiar with the station, said a record shows the AR-10 was brought to the police station on March 11th and logged into the evidence room that morning. The scope was found missing two weeks later on March 25th.
According to the second source, the AR-10 assault rifle isn’t a typical find in Chester so it sparked curiosity among some of the officers who wanted to see the item. The gun came with an expensive scope worth about $1,000 and that may have peaked interest in the gun that could have led to the scope being tampered with.
“It’s a rare item and you don’t see a lot of them, so people were curious,” said the second source.
When the scope was discovered missing, Major Alan Davis was reportedly notified and promised to look into the matter but another week went by without an update. According to the first source, Bail was then notified about the stolen gun part and he (Bail), the source said, promised to look into the matter but then Deputy Commissioner Otis Blair stepped in and suggested that he ask around the station and give the perpetrator 30 minutes to return the item without threat of arrest or prosecution.
“Within 30 minutes Major Davis is going upstairs with the scope in the bag,” details the first source. “It was in Deputy Commissioner Blair’s car that he left unlocked for whoever it was to drop it off.”
According to all sources, the scope was returned in half-an-hour just as Blair had predicted, but it is still uncertain who had the item and if any investigation will be done about how the evidence room was compromised so efficiently without any sign of forced entry.
“No comment on that,” said Blair, when reached by The Spirit about the incident. “I don’t know where you’re getting your information from.”
Blair said he was not aware of the AR-10 rifle and he refused to comment about the missing scope. He also refused to comment about whether the scope was found in his vehicle.
“They’re saying there won’t be any further investigation and there won’t be anyone allowed to review the video (surveillance of the evidence room),” said a third source who also wondered why the footage wasn’t reviewed weeks ago when it initially was reported missing.
“They should have been watching it from the day it happened but they didn’t,” the source said. “It boggles the mind. I don’t understand why it’s been handled this way.”
Last year the evidence room was under investigation when former Chester police officer Luis Rodriguez went public before Mayor John Linder and City Council detailing how he was told by Bail to give local gun dealer, William “Dusty” Rhoads, “access to the evidence room to remove gun parts.”
The Rhoades incident led to an investigation by the Delaware County Criminal investigation Division (CID) but failed to implicate anyone of a crime, saying that Rhoads was given permission by Bail to remove gun springs and grips from guns in the room so the items could not be considered stolen and therefore no crime was committed.