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Unsecured weapons, unserved warrant, unpaid bills, missing police dog: Pound police chief outlines problems

The town's evidence situation may have contributed to a mistrial in Wise County this week

June 29, 2021

POUND — Even before getting into budget matters on Tuesday, the Pound Council got a hard look at what its police department left in its wake after disbandment almost two months ago.

Interim Police Chief Chris Wilcox, in his report to the council, described a scene in which weapons and evidence were stored improperly, invoices were left unpaid and a police dog bought about a year ago cannot be found.

Wilcox said "multiple pieces of evidence" have been found unsecured in the department office and outside the evidence room since he was hired in May and a Fairfax County Police Department evidence specialist began inventorying evidence and records.

Some of that evidence included an indoor marijuana growing operation unsecured and undocumented outside the evidence room.

Wilcox said he and now-former Town Manager Drew Mullins, while recently going through radio equipment stored in a cabinet in the office, also found a folding-stock AK-47 assault rifle with a box of ammunition behind the equipment.

The AK-47 is believed to have been stolen during a 2015 breaking-and-entering in Wise, Wilcox said, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents were expected to collect the weapon on Wednesday.

Wilcox said Mullins had contacted former Chief Tony Baker earlier about the AK-47 and allegedly was told that it already had been turned over to the ATF.

According to more records, the department had bought several hundred dollars in K-9 equipment and two dogs — Buddy and Captain Jackson — Wilcox said, causing council members to ask why they never heard of the department having a K-9 unit.

"I never met Buddy," council member Clifton Cauthorne said to laughter from the audience.

After a few moments of discussion, council member Glenn Cantrell said he had bought Captain Jackson after the animal was retired. Wilcox said he was trying to see if the K-9 gear could be returned.

Pound police weapons were also found lying on the evidence room floor instead of being secured in an available arms locker, Wilcox said, while the locker obstructed security camera views.

More unsecured weapons were found in the trunk of a police Chevy Impala parked at the rear of town hall, Wilcox said. In that case, the vehicle key was still in the ignition and the vehicle left unlocked. Anyone could have used the key or trunk release and had access to a loaded, unsafetied shotgun with a chambered round and an AR-15 with 180 rounds of ammunition in magazines.

Unlogged, sealed evidence bags and a knife were also found in the Impala's trunk, Wilcox said. Records, fingerprints and an unserved warrant were also found in the Impala's back seat.

The town's evidence situation may have contributed to a mistrial in Wise County this week, Wilcox said.

Wilcox said he has found invoices stuffed into various places in the office, including a collections letter from police equipment supply store A&A Security for almost $1,500 for an unpaid invoice. He said about $884 in unopened equipment from A&A has been found and returned to the company, with A&A forgiving another $596 owed.

During Baker's term as chief, Wilcox said several personalized police badges worth about $160 each had been ordered — about twice the typical cost of regular badges.

Only one of the personalized badges has been recovered from one of the police vehicles, Wilcox said — a badge for former town attorney and part-time police officer Tim McAfee. He asked council to have town attorney Cameron Bell send letters to Baker and former officers asking for the return of the badges.

Wilcox said he had also contacted McAfee about the whereabouts of an evidence room visitor log, with McAfee telling him he was not aware of such a log.

Wilcox said he has tried without success to get Baker to turn over access codes for the police department computers, adding that Wise County Commonwealth's Attorney Chuck Slemp III and Wise County Sheriff Grant Kilgore have also tried and failed to contact Baker.

With Baker's lack of response to the computer code request, Wilcox said he was asking for advice from the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police and for a state attorney general's opinion on whether Baker has violated state law regarding transfer of records to an authorized successor.

Council had not begun discussion on approval of the town's 2021-22 general fund budget late on Tuesday.

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