Rock Hill woman finds stolen pistol under car seat

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comAugust 21, 2013 

It’s possible Joyce Davis sat on a loaded 9mm semi-automatic pistol every time she drove her 2002 Chevrolet Malibu.

She didn’t know it until Tuesday, when she noticed that the driver’s seat cushion in the car she bought at least eight years ago was loose. When she lifted the cushion, she found a gun underneath the seat.

“I said, ‘Oh my God,’ ” Davis said, adding that she never felt the weapon under her seat.

Police took the loaded gun and asked dispatchers to check if it had been entered as a stolen gun into the National Crime Information Center, a criminal information clearinghouse.

Dispatchers confirmed that the weapon had been reported stolen from Winston-Salem, N.C., on Feb. 11, 2003, according to a Rock Hill Police report.

The gun was “severely rusty,” police reported, and looked like it had been sitting under the seat cushion for a long time.

Davis said she bought the used car several years ago from a Rock Hill auto dealership. She uses the car all the time, she said, and could not think of anyone who could have been in her car with a gun or taken her vehicle to North Carolina.

After discovering the pistol, Davis said she called several friends who borrowed her car and asked if they left a gun inside. They all said no, she said.

“I thought someone planted it under there trying to get me in trouble,” she said. “I got nervous. I froze up. I didn’t know what to do.”

The gun belongs to a 37-year-old dental assistant in Winston-Salem who 10 years ago reported that someone broke into his car overnight, said Officer J.C. Hartzog of the Winston-Salem Police Department.

The thief got away with several CDs, stereo equipment and the pistol, which the man kept in his glove compartment, Hartzog said.

It was the only item stolen from his car that he was able to provide a serial number for, he said. Police entered the gun as stolen in the NCIC database.

“Guns last forever,” he said, and they typically surface “somewhere, usually in the commission of a crime.”

“I’ve had them stolen here, recovered in California ... recovered in New York,” he said.

Discovering the culprit who left a gun in Davis’ car would require detectives to trace her car’s ownership history and piece together any connection to the Winston-Salem break-in, Hartzog said.

Guns in the news

Davis found the gun under her seat the same week police announced that eight Rock Hill residents were indicted in connection with a New York gun-smuggling operation that authorities called the biggest bust in the state’s history.

Earl Campbell, indicted on 237 gun and criminal conspiracy felonies, used to live in Rock Hill until he moved to Charlotte.

He is accused of smuggling guns into Manhattan via Chinatown buses that don’t require travelers to show identification before boarding.

Campbell, 23, is charged with selling 90 guns – including two assault weapons, four rifles, two shotguns and some inoperable guns – during 24 meetings with undercover detectives. He made a $75,000 profit in illegal gun sales, authorities say.

Warquisha Michaux, Larick Michaux, Marcell Dyess, Arthur Antonio Barber and Brandon Rashad Potts are accused of conspiring to supply Campbell with the illegal firearms. Campbell’s girlfriend, Kendall Jones, also was charged after police say she traveled with her boyfriend to sell up to nine guns at one time. Chris Hill is charged with conspiring to supply guns to a Sanford, N.C., man who bused guns from North Carolina to New York.

York County drug enforcement agents, who helped U.S. Marshals, Rock Hill Police, the New York City Police Department and York County Sheriff’s Office make the Aug. 5 arrests, said Monday they were waiting on more information about the specific guns sold to determine whether they were stolen or bought in York County.

Marvin Brown, drug unit commander, said Wednesday that agents haven’t received word that any of the guns were stolen, but he was unsure if New York authorities were finished checking all the weapons.

“A gun is a restricted item,” said Earl Woodham, spokesman for the Charlotte branch of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. “Everybody can’t have a gun. Everybody can’t buy a gun. Everybody can’t possess a gun. If you can’t go to a gun dealer and buy one ... the other option is to steal one.”

People who want a gun despite federal and state restrictions turn to theft, burglary, robberies or break-ins.

Others turn to “lying and buying” or “straw” purchases to pay individuals who legally buy guns on their behalf.

Greed, money and a high profit margin are incentives smugglers have for buying and selling guns in bulk, he said.

Valuable lesson

Woodham said Davis’ situation is “not normal.”

“It’s not normal for people to lose accountability of their firearms as far as where they’re at,” he said.

But, he said, it’s possible the car’s previous owner put the gun in the car, died and then his family members sold or the traded the car in back to the dealership, he said.

Nevertheless, Davis said the situation has taught her a valuable lesson.

“I would encourage anybody, if they’re going to get those used cars, check under your cushions,” she said.

Jonathan McFadden •  803-329-4082

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