Where's that gun?

Philadelphia Media Network, Inc., philly.com
BYLINE: DAVID GAMBACORTA, 215-854-5994
Link to Article

FUBAR files hold notes on missing stuff

Philadelphia, PA

2011-08-10_Wheres that gun_01
This label in the Police Department's Firearms Identification Unit is affixed to a cabinet that has paperwork for weapons that are missing, and for weapons that have no paperwork. "FUBAR stands for F----- Up Beyond All Recognition." (Photo provided)

AT FIRST GLANCE, it looks like an ordinary, meaningless little label.

But then your eyes focus and you realize it reads: "FUBAR Storage."

The acronym, in case you're wondering, stands for "F----- Up Beyond All Recognition." The label is affixed to the front of a six-foot-tall cabinet in the Police Department's Firearms Identification Unit.

Police sources say that the cabinet is home to property receipts for firearms and other evidence that the unit can't find, and weapons that don't have paperwork explaining why they are in police custody.

Never has a label seemingly applied so well to a situation.

The "FUBAR" cabinet is among numerous troubling issues involving the FIU that the Daily News has learned about in recent weeks.

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said yesterday that he has asked forensic experts from the U.S. Department of Justice to audit the FIU. The State Police agreed last week to help with the task.

Ramsey also confirmed that the unit is missing a Tec-9, a semiautomatic weapon, that police confiscated in 2005 in an assault case.

"It could be at the D.A.'s office," he said. "It could be in evidence [at City Hall]. We just have to locate it."

Ramsey said that he has transferred Officer Anthony Magsam - who is at the center of a long-running Internal Affairs investigation into the FIU - from Northeast Philly's 15th District to the Differential Police Response Unit, an administrative post in Police Headquarters.

The Daily News reported last week that Magsam allegedly had stolen internal parts from two automatic weapons in the FIU in 2009, according to numerous sources with direct knowledge of the incident.

Being in possession of stolen or unregistered machine-gun parts is a federal crime, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

But Magsam - whose mother, police Sgt. Barbara Feeney, is married to retired Chief Inspector Michael Feeney - was never disciplined or reported. He was transferred to the 15th District.

Ramsey reassigned the commander of the FIU, Lt. Vincent Testa, after the People's Paper began inquiring about allegations that Testa had helped to arrange a cover-up of the theft.

The commissioner also replaced the lead Internal Affairs investigator on the case, as well as Capt. Carmen Vuotto, who was overseeing the investigator's work. Vuotto previously worked with Testa in the FIU.

"We have good investigators working on this," he said. "It's not that we didn't before, but they just didn't complete it."

Police sources said that a firearms examiner realized more than a year ago that the Tec-9 was missing from the FIU's inventory.

"It had been altered to fire fully automatic," said a source who has knowledge of the missing weapon. "When the examiner realized it was missing, he said, 'Holy s---!' It was brought to Testa's attention, and he said, 'Don't we have a Tec-9 in the archive room that we can replace it with?' "

Ramsey said that Testa, who has declined to comment, never made such a statement.

The Tec-9 was confiscated by police in July 2005, when officers searched Floyd Wiggins' house.

Wiggins and another man, Richard Lyons, had been charged with assaulting and threatening a motorist in West Philly, according to court records.

Both were later found not guilty, however, and the Tec-9 didn't figure into the case, said defense attorney Raymond Driscoll, who represented Wiggins.

How the FIU lost track of the weapon is unclear.

Ramsey said he was not "in a state of panic" over the missing weapon.

"It needs to be put into context," he said. "We've literally had thousands of guns come in [to the FIU] since 2005.

"It's not like you have five guns and you're missing one. And it's not like this was an active case."

But, finding the weapon is a priority, as is finding out what's lurking inside the "FUBAR" cabinet.

Ramsey said he was not aware that the cabinet existed until earlier this week.

"It's a part of the investigation now," he said.

Police sources said that the cabinet sits in the middle of a walkway in the FIU, and has long contained paperwork on numerous pieces of evidence that can't be found, and guns that don't have any attached paperwork.

Ramsey said he has been told by police officials that some of the missing paperwork had been lost in an office flood.

"We just need to get a complete audit, get everything in line and make sure everything is being run right in there," he said.

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