Guns missing from Berkeley evidence sparks criminal probe - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Guns missing from Berkeley evidence sparks criminal probe

Posted: Updated:
  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • Tazewell County Man Busted for Growing Marijuana

    Tazewell County Man Busted for Growing Marijuana

    Monday, September 1 2014 8:04 PM EDT2014-09-02 00:04:51 GMT
    Roger Lee Sparks, Jr.Roger Lee Sparks, Jr.
    A Richlands man is in custody after Tazewell County Deputies find $350,000 worth of pot, including 115 plants and more than a pound of harvested marijuana, and guns in his home.
    A Richlands man is in custody after Tazewell County Deputies find $350,000 worth of pot, including 115 plants and more than a pound of harvested marijuana, and guns in his home.
  • Officers In Tazewell County Work To Keep Your Holiday Travel Safe

    Officers In Tazewell County Work To Keep Your Holiday Travel Safe

    Monday, September 1 2014 6:50 PM EDT2014-09-01 22:50:12 GMT
    Police patrolling the roads this Labor DayPolice patrolling the roads this Labor Day
    According to AAA, 34.7 million people are expected to hit the road this Labor Day. Many police officers are out in force to keep you safe.
    According to AAA, 34.7 million people are expected to hit the road this Labor Day. Many police officers are out in force to keep you safe.
  • After fatal McDowell County crash, Troopers caution against drinking and driving over Holiday Weekend

    After fatal McDowell County crash, Troopers caution against drinking and driving over Holiday Weekend

    Monday, September 1 2014 6:00 PM EDT2014-09-01 22:00:38 GMT
    While many are safely celebrating Labor Day, State Troopers want to caution everyone about the dangers of drinking and driving.The West Virginia Department of Transportation says over the last 5 years in the Mountain State, almost 800 people have been killed in a drink driving crash just during Labor Day Weekend. Troopers released these pictures from Sunday morning's fatal crash to show the consequences drinking and driving can have.Read full story on Sunday morning's fatal crash in McDowell ...
    While many are safely celebrating Labor Day, State Troopers want to caution everyone about the dangers of drinking and driving.The West Virginia Department of Transportation says over the last 5 years in the Mountain State, almost 800 people have been killed in a drink driving crash just during Labor Day Weekend. Troopers released these pictures from Sunday morning's fatal crash to show the consequences drinking and driving can have.Read full story on Sunday morning's fatal crash in McDowell ...

Investigators in Berkeley County are following the trail of guns that should be locked up in the sheriff's evidence room but aren't.

The missing firearms were related to cases that date back to 2010 and earlier, so no current or pending cases are impacted.

But Sgt. B.F. Hall says the department needs to know how the weapons turned up at a gun store when there is no order of their disposal on file.

By law, the Secretary of State must issue an order authorizing police to dispose of weapons from evidence. Once the order is issued, Hall said the guns either can be destroyed or sold.

The discrepancy in Berkeley County was uncovered when a deputy realized a weapon associated with a case he'd worked "wasn't showing up on the evidence log and he was kind of wondering where it was."

Hall said a criminal investigation is in progress.

"Firearms were taken from the evidence room and may have been improperly disposed of," he said. "It's an ongoing investigation. I won't know until we see exactly what was disposed of, what was not, but there could be a felony charge — it all depends."

Hall said the investigation could take a month or more to wrap up, pointing out he's been in "constant communication" with the county prosecutor, Pamela Games-Neely.

He said improperly disposing of evidence is a serious offense, but he did not say who in particular, if anyone, is being looked at as part of an investigation. He did say the evidence custodian who had been in charge at that time "has resigned and has not been in the evidence room since 2010," Hall said. 

"There is a new evidence custodian," he said. "Actually, there are several new evidence custodians."

Hall also said the department had taken steps to tighten security even before the guns came up missing:

 

  • During the past four years he said the sheriff's department had implemented a computerized evidence tracking system, and will be switching to yet another software program when the department occupies its new location on South Raleigh Street. The move is in progress, he said.
  • Sheriff Kenny Lemaster also instituted a change in department policy: Going forward, Hall said when weapons are no longer needed in evidence they'll be destroyed, not sold.

 

"This incident is not a failure of any security system or anything to do with policies," Hall added. "Evidence custodians are appointed by the sheriff. It's a matter of trust — it's more a violation of trust than a failure of policies or a failure of the security system in place."