Houston & Peach

Authorities used serial number to link gun in NYPD officer slaying to Perry

PERRY -- The doors to Little’s Bait & Tackle & Pawn Shop were closed Tuesday morning, and a sign in the window indicates it’s for sale.

Nearly four years ago, the small business was burglarized twice. Early Oct. 3, 2011, 23 guns were stolen, and on Saturday one of them was used to fatally shoot New York City police officer Brian Moore. Moore, 25, was pronounced dead Monday.

“It’s a bad way to recover the gun by an officer being shot,” said Perry police Capt. Bill Phelps, who got the call from New York City police that the stolen gun was recovered. “It’s not the gun. It’s the person. We have a choice to take another human’s life. ... It’s senseless.”

Authorities used the gun’s serial number, which was entered into a national database after it was stolen, to track the Taurus .38 caliber revolver back to Perry. New York City police have not disclosed to local authorities if they know how the accused shooter, 35-year-old Demetrius Blackwell, got his hands on the weapon.

Blackwell, who is facing a murder charge, has no known ties to Middle Georgia and no known criminal record here, said Perry police Capt. Heath Dykes.

The suspects in the burglary at the pawn shop on Gen. Courtney Hodges Boulevard were never caught. Wearing hooded tops, dark pants and baseball caps, two men busted glass display cases to steal weapons and jewelry.

One person was arrested in Perry on a misdemeanor theft by receiving stolen property charge in connection with the burglary shortly after stolen gold necklaces and a woman’s wedding ring set were pawned at a Warner Robins business.

Dykes said he thinks the same men burglarized the pawn shop again on Dec. 6, 2011, and stole about a dozen more weapons.

The pawn shop’s owner, 76-year-old Clarence Little, could not be reached for comment Tuesday. City records show he still owns the business license, which he has kept up to date since 1995, the farthest back that city licensing records go.

His sister-in-law, Nell Little, was at the store Wednesday.

"I think it's a terrible thing," she said of the stolen gun being used in the slaying. "It's sad it happened. It's kind of unnerving. But it was stolen."

Little said she's been filling in for brother-in-law as she can until he returns from a trip later in the week. She works full time at a McDonald's restaurant.

She said the store's been for sale for about three years, but those who have been interested in buying it haven't been able to come up with the money.

Little said she was surprised by all the attention the store has gotten in the last few days. She said a New York Times reporter was waiting in the parking lot when she came to work about 12:45 p.m. Tuesday. The store normally would have been open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. that day, she said.

In all, she said she's been interviewed by five New York City reporters and an ABC reporter.

She's taken it in stride but said she'd rather do without all the media attention.

ILLEGAL GUN TRAFFICKING HARD TO TRACE

Retired FBI agent Clint Rand said it’s not uncommon for a stolen gun to end up anywhere in the world through illegal gun trafficking networks.

A report from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives found that in 2012, 190,000 firearms were reported lost or stolen to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center, said Rand, who now owns a global security business based in New Hampshire.

Georgia was No. 2 in the country for the most guns reported lost or stolen, only behind Texas. Georgia reported 12,602 weapons stolen, compared to just 304 reported lost, Rand said.

The guns that are lost or stolen get into secondary, illegal gun markets and are trafficked similar to drugs.

He said guns are “extremely easy” to get illegally, with most of the more sophisticated gun trafficking rings networked through the prison system. Illegal weapons are also easy to buy on the street, he said.

On the other hand, legal guns from manufacturer to dealer to purchaser are rigorously tracked, Rand said.

“That’s pretty foolproof,” Rand said. “But that secondary market, there’s no way to track those guns that are stolen, which are sold to a gun dealer, who will send them up to New York City just as the trafficking of drugs. It’s scary.”

There are also no regulations that adequately require how pawn shops secure or display firearms, Rand said.

In the Perry burglaries, the pawn shop had a security system, surveillance cameras and bars on the windows. But the suspects’ images were fuzzy and blurred on the surveillance video, Dykes said.

He said he was disheartened to learn of New York City officer’s death.

“Anytime we lose a fellow officer in law enforcement, it’s a tragedy,” Dykes said. “The officer, his family and the police department are in our thoughts and prayers, and we hope they are able to bring this case to justice.”

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

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