More than 2,800 seized weapons meet a fiery demise
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Every gun has a story.
Some melted Tuesday by court order were used to stick up store clerks or plug wayward boyfriends. Others were fired when drug deals went bad. A few were hung out car windows for drive-by shootings.
In September 1995, a .25-caliber semiautomatic with pink pearl grips was found at Lincoln Elementary School by Patrolman Michael Walker. In May 2001, Patrolman Paul Brown found a 9 mm Ruger in the waistband of a woman's pants.
In July 2001, Patrolmen Chris Bonacci and Michael Hartzell seized an Uzi 9 mm semiautomatic while making an arrest. In June 2002, Hartzell collected a loaded .380-caliber Bryco Arms handgun and one spent casing after a shooting.
Tuesday, the gun used to shoot Hartzell to death two years ago was not among the 2,806 firearms dumped into a furnace at V & amp;M Star Steel on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. That gun, fired by Martin Koliser Jr., was never found.
What was collected
Each of the firearms melted as scrap -- 2,200 handguns, 450 rifles and shotguns, 101 assault-type weapons and 55 sawed-off shotguns -- was collected between 1994 and 2002, said Police Chief Robert E. Bush Jr. He said they likely represent more than 1,000 arrests.
The firearms, stored in plastic milk crates, were loaded onto wooden pallets and then transported to the furnace by forklift. The cold metal hitting the furnace's heat caused popping sounds and sparks.
"These guns were found by the patrol division and detectives," said Bush, dressed in an orange protective jacket and hard hat, watching his officers at the steel yard. "The guns came from cars, domestics, robberies, burglaries and shootings."
He said guns taken by the special units, such as the Street Crimes Unit and Vice Squad, are stored separately for disposal.
Some guns that may be needed for court appeals, such as those used by murderer and death row inmate Willie "Flip" Williams, remain in storage on the sixth floor at the Youngstown Police Department, said Lt. Robin Lees. Guns are kept there and in the department's sub basement below the garage.
"We needed the storage space," Bush said of Tuesday's gun burn. "We keep them until disposition of court cases."
Bush said getting the guns off the streets might have prevented hundreds of crimes.
Each firearm had a colored evidence tag attached that listed the date it was seized, the officer and a brief explanation of the circumstances. The color of the tag signified the year.
Patrolmen Greg Ross and Nick Marciano, who control the evidence lockers, were on hand to oversee the destruction of the firearms, as was Municipal Judge Robert P. Milich. The judge had a file folder with 106 pages that listed each weapon.
Judge Milich signed the orders that permitted destruction of the weapons. He said the court order protects the police department should the destruction be challenged in court.
Marciano said most of the guns were cheap "Saturday night specials," likely worth $100 each. He said the most popular gun in the city is "The Raven," a .25-caliber worth about $100.
Other guns melted in the furnace were worth $300 to $400, he said. Estimated value of the firearms destroyed ranged from $300,000 to $500,000.