VALPARAISO | Prosecutors are dropping the criminal charge against a Valparaiso man after police determined he was telling the truth when he said he didn't know the gun he had was stolen because he purchased it legitimately at a gun store.
Chad Nolan, 22, was arrested on a felony charge of receiving stolen property after a stolen 9mm handgun was found in his possession during a routine traffic stop Saturday night in Valparaiso.
Nolan, who had a permit for the gun, said he purchased it a few months earlier at Blythe's in Valparaiso. Police could not confirm that Saturday night, so they arrested Nolan for possessing a gun stolen from a Virginia cop a decade earlier.
But Valparaiso police spokesman Sgt. Michael Grennes said Tuesday that police confirmed Nolan purchased the gun from the gun shop. Prosecutor Brian Gensel said that, as a result, the charge is being dismissed.
Both Valparaiso police and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said gun shops are not required to check whether guns they purchase and then resell were ever reported stolen. In fact, the agencies said gun shops don't have the law enforcement capabilities to do such checks.
Grennes said police will look into whether a program can be set up to work with dealers to check if any of their used guns have been reported stolen.
Blythe's owner Lester Blythe, who buys 30 to 40 guns a week, said if he is suspicious about a gun, he can call in a favor from law enforcement and get its history checked. But in his 30 years in the business, he's only had three or four guns turn out to be stolen. And, to his knowledge, nobody had ever been arrested for possessing one.
Blythe said, in past stolen gun incidents, he has reimbursed the customers for the price of the gun. Blythe, who hadn't heard of Nolan's problem with a gun, plans to look into the incident.
Blythe noted that most people with a stolen gun wouldn't sell it to a gun shop because they are required to present a driver's license. In this case, police said a Lowell resident sold the gun to Blythe's, who then sold it to Nolan. The investigation of the Lowell resident continues.