Dozens of police-issued firearms lost or stolen in Michigan since 2010

(WXYZ) - Dozens of police-issued firearms have gone missing from Michigan's largest police departments since 2010, a 7 Action News investigation has found.

Forty-two weapons have disappeared from the Detroit Police Department, Wayne County Sheriffs Department and Michigan State Police, with most being reported stolen.

Eight of the weapons were later recovered, including some that were used, according to police, in the commission of other crimes.

Last November in Detroit, near the corner of Brace and Tireman, cops were conducting what they thought was a routine traffic stop. But the man behind the wheel, 25-year-old Tyrone West, had other plans. According to Detroit police, he pulled a gun on the officers that pulled him over.

Police wrestled the firearm away before he could get off a shot. 

West was arrested and charged, but the biggest surprise of all came when officers realized the gun nearly used to kill them was one of their own: a Detroit-police issued .40 caliber Smith and Wesson stolen two months earlier from an officer’s home.

Between 2013 and 2016, Detroit Police reported that 12 department-issued were missing. Two were later recovered.

At the Wayne County Sheriff’s department20 firearms issued to officers disappeared since 2010, with four ultimately being located.

Some guns were lost, like when one officer said her Sig-Sauer firearm disappeared after taking it to a crowded concert at Detroit’s Chene Park.

Others were stolen. At a Valero gas station in Detroit, an officer left her vehicle running and her gun inside.  Thieves took off with the gun and the car.

At the Ace of Spades strip club along 8 Mile in Detroit, one sheriff’s deputy decided to stash his county-issued firearm in the middle console of his vehicle. When he came back to his car, the gun was gone.  

Robet Dunlap, a Chief in the Wayne County Sheriff's Department, said that while 20 guns represents a small fraction of the total number of department-issued firearms, "one (gun) is too many."

"Should an officer be leaving a gun in his car, whether it's at a strip club of anywhere else?" asked Channel 7's Ross Jones.

"Our policy forbids officers from securing their weapons in cars," said Dunlap. "I don’t know the exact circumstances of that incident. A vehicle is not the safest place to secure a weapon."

"To know that the thing that was entrusted to you was used in the commission of that crime, that keeps you up at night," said Ellis Stafford, who spent more than 20 years with the Michigan State Police and today is a Director at the Detroit Crime Commission.

Since 2010, MSP reported that 10 guns were stolen or missing.  Two were ultimately located.

"Bad guys actually target police officers," Stafford said. "They’ll target their house, they’ll target places officers frequent. The weapons they have are quality weapons."

At an officer’s home in Redford, records show that thieves left with a treasure trove: a department-issued revolver, plus the officer's semi-automatic handgun and rifle. 

In fact, most of the weapons reported missing since 2010 came after home break-ins, with many officers leaving firearms in places like dresser drawers or closets. 

"If we’re seeing a number of weapons being taken from those places, why hasn’t there ben a directive for officers to put their weapons in safes?" Jones asked Dunlap.

"Just because it’s in a safe doesn’t mean someone can’t break into your house and steal your safe, just like we see on the local news," Dunlap said.

"It would be a lot harder to steal a gun if it’s in a safe though," Jones said.

"Not necessarily," responded Dunlap.

Records show Detroit police reported 12 weapons missing since 2013.  Assistant Chief James White said the lost firearms represent less than 1% of the officers on the force.

It's not an epidemic, he said,  but it's 12 too many.

"Anytime that a weapon is not in the hands of the proper owner, it’s a concern," White said. "I don’t know that the answer is necessarily to add another layer of restriction. I think the answer is more training."

All told, 34 of the 42 firearms reported lost or stolen by Detroit Police, Michigan State Police and the Wayne County Sheriff, according to police records, are still missing.

"You’re always afraid that gun’s going to be used in a violent crime, to take an innocent life," Stafford said. "That worry never goes away."

Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at ross.jones@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466.

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