Indicted officer accused of selling 215 firearms Guns bought from dealers, sold illegally, affidavit says

February 09, 1996|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore County policeman indicted on federal weapons charges bought more than 215 firearms from Maryland dealers over seven years, and illegally sold many of them, according to an affidavit filed in Baltimore's federal court.

Officer Timothy Thomas Mitchem -- said to have told a federal agent that his nickname in the Parkville police station was "Gunrunner" -- was indicted by a federal grand jury Feb. 1 after a search of his apartment turned up an assault rifle and written inventory of firearms purchases.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms also alleged that Officer Mitchem conducted an unauthorized and illegal computer search for personal information on ATF Special Agent Robert Young, who conducted the investigation and filed the affidavit June 22 in requesting a search warrant.

The 8 1/2 -year police veteran -- charged with dealing in firearms without a license and unlawful possession of an assault weapon -- turned himself in to federal authorities Monday, and was suspended without pay by the county Police Department. He could not be reached for comment.

"I wasn't aware of his nickname, and his involvement in guns never came to my attention," Maj. Jeffrey M. Caslin, commander of the Parkville and White Marsh precincts, said yesterday.

He said the officer's performance has "always been above average."

"This came as a complete surprise last June when the investigation was brought to our attention by the federal authorities," Major Caslin said.

ATF Agents became aware of Officer Mitchem's gun purchases in November 1992, when he bought four handguns from Nicoll's Gun and Hunting Supplies -- then a federally licensed firearms dealer. The purchase was reported by the dealer and agents looked into the matter, but agents didn't begin an investigation until 1994, when they received a tip that Officer Mitchem was selling guns, the affidavit said.

Authorities alleged that Officer Mitchem also "sold, traded and exchanged firearms" with several acquaintances and fellow county and city police offices, and never applied for a federal firearms license -- despite being told to do so by an agent who questioned him in 1992.

Among those listed in the affidavit as obtaining guns from Officer Mitchem were:

* His cousin, David Wildstein, a counselor at the Howard County Drug Treatment Center, who traded three guns with him. Mr. Wildstein told the ATF that Officer Mitchem "is an avid shooter/collector," "was compulsive about guns," and that "his gun sales and trades were a social activity for him."

* Former county Officer Raymond Ewing of Towson, who owns a liquor store, was referred to Officer Mitchem by a county sergeant and bought a pistol.

Mr. Ewing declined to comment yesterday, saying he wanted to consult his lawyer.

* William Koenig, a Parkville dentist who rented Officer Mitchem's apartment to him and bought a Colt AR-15 .223-caliber rifle for about $1,400. Mr. Koenig did not return a reporter's calls.

* Joseph Dobb, a county District Court commissioner and friend, who purchased and traded firearms, obtaining two .44-caliber revolvers. He defended Officer Mitchem's character yesterday.

"He's an honorable and decent guy. He's a real good police officer. I'm sure in his mind he didn't think he was doing anything wrong. He planned to be a policeman until he retired. This just blows his whole life away," he said.

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