Saturday, November 23, 2013

Game Warden Files--Joe the Sniper

The story came to me from a local gun shop I frequent both on and off duty. They asked if I knew a guy who was doing some training for the State Police Mobile Response Team that day. Not recognizing the guy's name, I had the proprietor continue with the story. This guy had come in the store, talking like he was some special operator working for a well-known military contractor in Iraq. He had told stories about "shooting 'objects'" at extended ranges and showed them a highly customized rifle in a fitted case that had all the accouterments--including a silencer. Under NY state law, silencers are illegal for the general public and under federal law they are highly restricted and taxed. He also had what had appeared to be an official looking identification card linking him to that contractor.

My next stop was the State Police Barracks where I asked who this might be, that whole thought of a silencer bothering me still. I talked to a local trooper who was on the MRT and he didn't have a clue--and he should have known. Now I was on the track of guy who might just be a nut-case.

The matter went cold for a couple weeks as the guy had just gone out of view for a while, but I'd made some quiet inquiries and was not liking the stories I'd been getting. This guy was making himself out to be some kind of military war hero, super-sniper and something of a special government hit man. Red flags were going up everywhere, so I kept looking. A couple weeks later, I went into the gun shop on a day off and the owner told me that Sniper Joe had just been in to pick up a case of ammo and was headed off to a local range to do some shooting with the State Police.

Since there was personal business I had to attend to, neighboring officer Larry Johnson picked up the trail for me and went to the range along with a local Trooper. They were about to leave when Sniper Joe showed up and started a conversation. Larry kept the conversation going and ultimately got into the gun case finding not unexpectedly, a silencer, along with an official ID identifying him as an employee of a well-known federal contractor.

By that time, my business had been completed and I busied myself finding out just who the guy was. A friend of mine is in the security business, and had the phone number for the contractor on speed dial, so I called and checked him out. Turns out that he was a heavy equipment operator and had no reason to be in possession of his equipment even when he had been in Iraq, which had been some time before. Interestingly, when I asked if they might be missing a silencer, they didn't really want to continue that line of questions. Hmm.

Interestingly, Sniper Joe had a couple silencers legally registered to him in Texas, where he could lawfully possess them. He also had an application in with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms to acquire another one. The one he had here was none of them.

In the end, we charged him under state law, and let the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms follow up on the rest of it. They executed a search warrant on his home the next day, but found nothing--too late, no doubt. We'll always believe that the word had gotten out and his friends got whatever other illegal devices he might have had stashed.

I always suspected that he and one of his buddies with whom I was familiar had other illegal items; but they never came to light on that, and are either well hidden or long gone.

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