6 Trumbull students, one dad charged in gun thefts



One handgun stolen from a collector was valued at 2,500, police were told.
By TIM YOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
CORTLAND -- Fearful of a school shooting in wake of the Virginia Tech killing spree, police have implicated six high school students and the father of one of them in the theft of eight handguns.
All the guns were recovered by Wednesday night, Police Chief Gary Mink said Thursday.
Mink said the father of an older student and that student will be charged with receiving stolen property on allegations of fencing three of the stolen handguns for his son.
"I'll sell the guns for you," Mink quoted the father telling his son. The father lives on Johnson-Plank Road in Bazetta Township.
The other five students are under 18.
The case also involves students' stealing the guns from the thieves.
Mink said Monday's shooting deaths of 33 people on the Virginia Tech campus made the investigation an urgent priority.
Four of the students are from Lakeview High School and attend Trumbull Career Technical Center. Another is from Bristolville who also attends TCTC, and the sixth attends Howland High School.
The juvenile cases will be turned over to the Trumbull County Family Court's prosecutor to determine the charges. The older student and his father may be charged as early as today and arraigned Monday in Trumbull County Central District Court, Mink said.
"Recovery of all eight guns is the most important thing, of course," Mink asserted.
One of the firearms stolen was worth 2,500, Mink said the owner told police.
Robert Wilson, Lakeview schools superintendent, said if it can be proved that any student had a gun on school property, that student automatically will be expelled under state law.
Case unfolds
Mink explained the case started last Friday with the theft of the eight handguns from the home of a North Main Street collector.
What police found unusual, the chief noted, was that a number of rifles, money and other valuables were not touched.
This, he said, made police suspicious that it might be more than a break-in.
During the weekend, Mink said, officers interviewed people and neighbors about the burglary but came up empty.
On Monday, as news of the Virginia Tech shooting spread, police put all other investigations "on the back burner" and concentrated on the stolen-guns case.
In addition, Patrol Officer Jason Smith, the Lakeview's school resource officer, began hearing information that caused him concern.
As the investigation went on, Mink continued, an informant told police of an Erie Street home that might be involved, but nothing was found.
As police talked with the informant, they were told of suspected stolen goods in the Erie Street house.
The owner consented to a second search, and suspected stolen goods were found.
A second theft
With more information from the informant, police were led to a wooded area off state Route 46 in the northern section of the city. There, police found a satchel in some bushes, but it was empty.
As it turned out, Mink explained, two suspects went to a party in Warren the night of the break-in, flashed their stolen handguns and told others at the party what they had done and where the remaining six guns in the satchel were hidden.
Some of those who attended the Warren party, the chief said, went to where the suspects told them the guns had been in Cortland.
Police obtained search warrants for the Johnson-Plank Road home of the older student's father; one for the student's mother's home on Warren-Meadville Road, where the student lives; and a third where the party was held in Warren.
Mink said three of the guns were located in the Johnson-Plank residence, three recovered from those who bought them from the father, and two from the teens who kept the firearms after the burglary.
yovich@vindy.com