BWI security officers find gun in court official's bag

July 23, 1993|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Staff Writer Staff writers Rafael Alvarez and Glenn Small contributed to this article.

A Baltimore County District Court commissioner attempted to board a plane at Baltimore-Washington International Airport Monday with a loaded semiautomatic handgun and "cop killer" Teflon bullets in his carry-on luggage, state police confirmed yesterday.

Joseph Dobb, 51 -- a part-time commissioner in the Towson office who survived a 1976 car bombing attack -- was stopped at 6:49 p.m. as he tried to go through a checkpoint at Pier B near Delta Airlines, Sgt. Edward Buck said.

Sergeant Buck said the loaded .45-caliber gun was inside a black bag and was detected by security guards when it went through the X-ray machine.

The gun had one bullet in the chamber and seven in the clip, the sergeant said.

Mr. Dobb, a resident of the 200 block of Woodholme Ave. in Pikesville, said last night that he had placed the gun in a briefcase several weeks ago and forgot it was there when he headed to the airport for a flight to Atlanta.

"Unfortunately, I made a stupid mistake," he said. "I never meant for it to happen."

When the gun showed up on the X-ray machine, he said, "I was more shocked than they were."

He said he initially was suspended from work, but after he explained his story and demonstrated with the briefcase how the weight of the gun was not that noticeable, his suspension was lifted.

"I'm not a moron," he said. "I know I'm not supposed to take a gun in the airport. . . . Believe me, in my position [as a court commissioner] I would not do anything illegal."

Robert F. Sweeney, chief judge of Maryland's district courts, said last night that he had decided against suspending Mr. Dobb before a trial.

"The determining factor [against suspension] was that he had a permit for the gun," said Judge Sweeney, who discussed possible disciplinary action against Mr. Dobb with Administrative Judge John H. Garmer, the commissioner's immediate supervisor. "If he's convicted, he may be relieved."

Judge Sweeney added, however, that the 200 or so court commissioners are not allowed to carry weapons on the job and that employment as a commissioner is not considered a good enough reason by itself to obtain a gun permit.

"He says he just forgot that it was in his luggage," the judge said.

Mr. Dobb said he carries a gun because he was the victim of a car bombing in June 21, 1976, in Reisterstown and since then has worried about his safety.

The former committing magistrate in Woodlawn in the early 1970s received leg burns and a broken ankle in 1976 when his 1975 Cadillac exploded as he turned the ignition in front of his Westbury Apartment in Reisterstown.

Mr. Dobbs was on his way to work at Hirsch & Co. Sales Inc., a Baltimore furniture company where he was vice president, when his car blew up. The bomb blew a hole in car's floorboard and shattered his right ankle. He was treated and released at Baltimore County General Hospital. A second bomb -- which police said was professionally made but marred by botched wiring -- was found undetonated under the rear of the Cadillac.

Also discovered in the car was a 12-gauge shotgun. Mr. Dobb, 34 at the time, said he was "armed all the time" because he carried large amounts of money for his job.

"Somebody wants me, but I wish they would face me man to man," he said then. "This is just like a sniper who can strike out from anywhere."

Salvatore Butta, the county's chief court commissioner, said last night that Mr. Dobb has been a good employee for the 17 years he's been on the job.

"We've never had a problem," Mr. Butta said.

He said Mr. Dobb also told him he simply forgot the gun was in his luggage.

"I think it was a comedy of errors," Mr. Butta said.

Mr. Butta, who noted Mr. Dobb works about 10 days a month, said the part-timer is not scheduled to work again until next week.

Teflon bullets -- the kind police say Mr. Dobb tried to carry onto the plane -- are termed "cop killer" bullets by police and other law enforcement officials because of their ability to penetrate a bulletproof vest.

Security officers stopped Mr. Dobb when the bag went through the machine and they noticed a "suspicious" object inside, Sergeant Buck said. They searched the bag and found the gun.

Mr. Dobb, who was on his way to board a plane, told the officers that he had forgotten the gun was inside the bag, the police report said.

Although Mr. Dobb had a permit to carry the gun, it is illegal to board a plane with a gun unless airline officials and airport security are notified, Sergeant Buck said. Mr. Dobb was charged with carrying a handgun.

He was taken to the Glen Burnie District Court commissioner, where he was released on his own recognizance, the police report said.

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