By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter
Don Hicks of the Dade County Sheriff’s Department is bewildered as to who
alerted media, or why, over the past weekend about an internal and federal
investigation into the department’s – possibly improper – possession of three
SWAT guns. “Somebody last Friday called these TV stations for some reason with
a lot of inaccurate information,” he said by telephone on Monday.
speculated that the unknown leaker’s motivation could be dislike of either
newly elected Dade Sheriff Ray Cross or County Executive Chairman Ted Rumley.
“I think it might be political enemies at each other’s throats,” he said.
He said that
the investigation into the gun issue was ongoing, that the sheriff’s department
would be happy to issue a press release when it was complete, but that
currently he was not prepared to make any statement about the guns in question
at all. He said this was only one of many investigations he had instigated
since he came to the sheriff’s department in January. “As far as I’m concerned,
there is no story,” said Hicks. “It’s not a big deal.”
Chattanooga’s News Channel 9, in any event, did run a story, beginning, to
quote the narrative as reproduced online at Channel 9’s website: “Dade County
Executive Ted Rumley was recently questioned by federal agents over firearms.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives interviewed Rumley, a
past deputy and current officer, about two AR-15 submachine guns that had been
contacted by phone on Monday, was surprised to learn he had been a deputy and
was currently an officer. “That’s all new to me,” he said. He speculated that
the television reporter had meant he was a constitutional officer of the Dade
County government, but had no idea of the origin of the deputy reference.
always forthcoming, was willing to tell the Sentinel his side of the gun story
as he had Channel 9 before. Here’s what
For him, said
Rumley, the tale began about a year ago when then-Chief Deputy Danny Ellis was
doing some housecleaning at the Sheriff’s Department. At that time, Sheriff
Patrick Cannon was on his way out, having been defeated by Ray Cross in the
Republican primary in July. In any event, Ellis found the three Colt AR-15s in
pieces, disassembled, and let Rumley have a look at them.
explained that the AR-15 is a fully automatic weapon of the sort used by SWAT
personnel. SWAT stands for “special
weapons and training,” and SWAT teams are deployed in special, intense situations.
Dade has had few of those, perhaps, but the county has several officers who do
have SWAT training, and Rumley said he thought the always-cash-strapped county
could use the guns.
So Rumley, who
as a lifelong collector knows something about guns, had a stab at the Colts.
“Two of them were reparable,” he said. “I mean, actually it was very minimal to
put them back together.” Later, about January, said Rumley, he found enough
parts to fix the other one as well.
Cross won the November general election and took office, also in January. “Then
when a new sheriff comes in, any time, they do a full inventory or whatever of
everything, not just the guns but the cars and everything,” said Rumley. That,
he said, when the confusion arose about the AR-15s: According to the serial numbers, these were
guns that were supposed to have been destroyed in 2008 or 2009.
“There was some
deal back then that they traded a bunch of weapons off – I wasn’t around then,
and of course that’s sheriff’s business – but in that agreement, these guns
were sent back to them disassembled and they were supposed to have been cut up
in pieces and destroyed,” said Rumley. “So they weren’t supposed to exist.”
say who had “sent the guns back to them disassembled” – a dealer or
manufacturer, he guessed – or why they should have been required to be
destroyed, but according to computer data, Dade County ought not to own them
That, he said,
is why Investigator Hicks had been obligated to notify the ATF. The feds
regulate such weapons and it was proper procedure at that point to let them
take over the investigation.
Rumley said he
had in fact been questioned by ATF agents, but only for about five minutes one
or two months ago. The county is now
waiting for the results of their investigation. Rumley doesn’t think it will
mean trouble for either the sheriff’s department or his. “Most of the time,
it’s just a lot of paperwork,” he said.
question, apparently, is whether ATF will require the county to destroy the
guns, which Rumley thinks would be a shame because they’re worth at least $3000
apiece. “I couldn’t understand why we would have to destroy these if they were
county property,” he said.
will announce any developments in this matter when the sheriff’s office
releases more information.