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BYLINE: JAMES A. KIMBLE, Union Leader Correspondent
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November 09. 2012 9:21PM
BRENTWOOD - Auburn police stumbled upon a theft allegedly committed by one of their own earlier this year when a rifle seized from a home in 1992 and kept in the evidence room was missing, according to state prosecutors.
A Remington 30-06 rifle that retired police lieutenant David Flight had handed over after his wife alleged she was threatened by him with it in June 2009, according to investigators and court records, was missing.
An effort to purge the department of evidence it no longer needed - a customary practice in law enforcement - led to the discovery of Flight's alleged theft, according to investigators. Auburn police sergeants Charles Chabot and David Garfano were preparing court motions on Jan. 17, seeking a judge's permission to destroy a pair of rifles and a handgun seized from a convicted burlgar's home nearly two decades ago, investigators said.
The Remington rifle was among several weapons seized from the man, who was barred from owning weapons because of his felony conviction, according to Paul Brodeur, an investigator with the state Attorney General's Office.
The man had called police on Dec. 6, 1992 to report a home invasion, but left a variety of weapons he was barred from owning in plain sight of police.
Flight, then the evidence officer, had the man sign a consent form so police could take custody of the guns, two knives and a hunting bow, Brodeur said in a sworn affidavit. At the time, Flight, "was the only person who had access to the evidence room," Auburn police Chief Edward Picard later told investigators.
Flight served as the department's evidence officer for a decade, starting in 1990 before the duty was given to another officer, according to police interviewed by the state.
His alleged theft apparently went undetected for years, even after the department moved into a new station in the late 1990s and had all of its evidence transferred under the supervision of another police lieutenant, according to Brodeur's affidavit.
Police cataloged seized evidence using paper reports - one copy of the report went with the evidence, another went with the case file, Brodeur said in an affidavit for a search warrant. At least one copy of that report survived over the years, court documents indicate.
However it was domestic violence allegations made by Flight's wife, Angela, on June 6, 2009 that ultimately created a new paper trail for the missing Remington 30-06, according to the affidavit.
Once the gun briefly came back into police custody in 2009, its make and model number was recorded in the department's computer system, investigators said.
Chabot and Garfano went looking for the Remington in January based on the 1992 "possessed property" report, Brodeur said. When their search came up empty, Garfano typed in the rifle's serial number into the department's computer, which showed it was among guns taken from Flight's home in 2009.
State police had investigated Flight, regarding the domestic violence incident, and cleared him of any wrongdoing.
Picard then allowed Flight to return to work on Sept. 1, 2009, and take back the weapons seized from his home, the affidavit said. Nearly a year later, Flight retired after the town concluded its internal investigation into missing evidence from the department's evidence room. He left under a separation agreement that paid him $17,053.27. His annual salary was $60,952.
Auburn selectmen decided to upgrade security in the police department's evidence room with a motion-sensitive video camera and electronic key pad, following their internal investigation. Flight is currently free on bail as he awaits a jury trial in Rockingham County Superior Court.
He faces a pair of Class A felonies that could land him in state prison for 7½ to 15 years if convicted.
Flight was indicted by a Rockingham County grand jury in September on charges of theft by unauthorized taking and receiving stolen property. A search of his Auburn home by state police on Feb. 8 yielded the missing weapon, according to an inventory of seized items. State police also seized the stock of a 12-gauge Beretta shotgun from the 299 Wilsons Crossing Road home.
Although the charges surprised town officials, it was not the first time Flight came under a cloud of suspicion regarding missing evidence. Flight, the town's longtime police prosecutor, was allowed to retire from the department in November 2010 after an internal investigation into missing evidence was inconclusive, town officials said. The probe's focus was never disclosed, but did not involve a missing rifle, Town Administrator Bill Herman confirmed.
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