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UPDATE: Airport police chief resigns, arrested

Freedom Communications, News Herald,
BYLINE: CHRIS SEGAL / News Herald Writer
Link to Article

Bay County, FL

Tony Walker

Former deputy faces gun theft charges

WEST BAY — The former airport police chief was arrested and charged Wednesday afternoon for a 2006 incident involving the alleged forgery of documents and theft of weapons that were scheduled for destruction.

Tony Walker resigned from his post as police chief of the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport on May 3 when airport officials were notified a criminal investigation was being conducted.

Walker was employed by the Bay County Sheriff’s Office from 1994 to 2009 and when the alleged theft took place he was assigned to the property and evidence section.

“The allegations are that when he was over the evidence room he was supposed to destroy weapons that were confiscated and he did not destroy them,” said Walker’s attorney, Waylon Graham. “He used them for his personal use and then sold them to pawn shops.”

Walker faces felony charges of grand theft, dealing in stolen property and tampering with evidence.

An investigation was launched three weeks ago when it was discovered Walker sold 23 weapons to local pawn shops on three occasions. Sheriff’s investigators noticed the large amount of unusual guns and began looking into their origins.

“We noticed an assortment and a large number of weapons that had been sold at pawn shops,” said Sheriff Frank McKeithen. “We found that one weapon was taken from a 2006 destruct order.”

When sheriff’s investigators learned the guns were sold by a former employee, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was brought in on the investigation.

“This is not something we like to do, but when this happens we have a track record that we deal with it,” McKeithen said. “It’s not swept under the rug or taken lightly.”

About 20 of the weapons Walker sold previously had been in the custody of the Sheriff’s Office as evidence. The Sheriff’s Office collects evidence such as drugs and weapons and they are disposed of in various ways. Drugs can be burned, cars can be sold at auction and guns can be traded or destroyed, McKeithen said.

“The evidence is stored in what we thought was a safe environment,” McKeithen said. “For the 2006 destruct order, (Walker) was in charge and everything was done to process, but not all the property was destroyed. … It was signed off by two people and we thought we had procedures and maybe we need to do something different.”

Investigators believe that prior to the weapons’ scheduled destruction, Walker falsified documentation to indicate they had been destroyed.

“Some forgery and manipulation of records was done by him,” McKeithen said.

A warrant for Walker’s arrest was issued Wednesday afternoon, and he turned himself in at about 3:30 p.m. He was released on bond after he was booked in jail. The investigation is ongoing and there could be additional charges against Walker, authorities said.

“Tony regrets what has taken place and he feels he has let down the Sheriff’s Office and the people who work there,” Graham said. “He feels really sorry.”

If Walker is found guilty of the charges, he will no longer be allowed to serve in law enforcement.

“He’s probably remorseful because he’s going to jail,” McKeithen said.

Tony Walker, former chief of the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport police department and former Sgt. with the Bay County Sheriff's Office is seen in this News Herald file photo from Rick Seltzer Park in Panama City Beach. News Herald file photo

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