Man's missing gun used to wound officer, police say

Arundel man's Ruger disappeared in 1999

March 29, 2001|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Louis E. Hunter bought a high-powered Ruger revolver five years ago to hunt animals in Tennessee, only to have it mysteriously disappear in an apparent theft from his Brooklyn Park home two years ago.

The 29-year-old gun enthusiast had all but given up on finding his prized hunting weapon, which he once used to kill a boar from 50 yards in the Tennessee mountains.

He was stunned to learn yesterday that the .44-caliber Ruger Super Redhawk had turned up on a Baltimore street early Monday and was used, police say, to shoot Officer Anthony R. Molesky in the legs.

"There is no logical reason to have something like that," other than to hunt, Hunter said yesterday. "It's not designed for killing people. It's used for killing wild animals."

How the gun was apparently stolen and where it went from there is the subject of an intense city police investigation.

All authorities know is that the gun, with its 9 1/2 -inch barrel - dubbed a hand-held cannon by the police commissioner - was used to shoot Molesky at nearly point-blank range.

The 37-year-old officer was listed in fair condition at Maryland Shock Trauma Center yesterday. Bullets lodged in his legs, doctors said, and Molesky will need numerous surgeries and extensive rehabilitation.

Technicians at the city police crime laboratory are examining the 3.6-pound weapon to trace its history over the past two years and to determine whether it has been used in other crimes.

"It could have passed through God knows how many hands," said Edgar F. Koch, the lab's director.

Criminals typically favor smaller semiautomatic handguns that can be fired quickly and easily concealed, authorities say.

But in the past month, police have reported seizing an unusual number of large guns from Baltimore streets, including the .357 Magnum used to kill Agent Michael J. Cowdery on March 12.

The Ruger fits that category. Company literature describes the weapon as a "top of the line revolver. It is a large, not to say huge, weapon designed for hunting."

Hunter, who works nights as a printer and is a member of several area gun clubs, said he bought the gun from an Anne Arundel County gun shop five years ago for $684.

He reported the revolver missing in an apparent theft from his unlocked basement gun cabinet Feb. 21, 1999. Anne Arundel County police said Hunter told them the weapon had been taken during the previous nine days and that a scope was attached to it at the time.

Police reported no forced entry at the home. They classified it as a theft or stolen property, not as a burglary. No arrests have been made.

Hunter said he believes a former girlfriend could be responsible or "knows who did it." He would not divulge her name.

City police said they plan to talk with Hunter today.

The man suspected of shooting Molesky, Damon Hilton, 24, was killed by police moments later. They said he was a passenger in a stolen car parked outside a restaurant in Highlandtown.

Interviews with the occupants of the Lincoln Town Car have not helped trace the weapon, detectives said yesterday. Detectives are relying on ballistics tests that could take more than a week, even with advanced computers.

Police have a $50,000 computer, Drugfire, that allows them to quickly compare shell casings found at crime scenes to any gun confiscated by police in the Baltimore-Washington region since 1992.

But revolvers, unlike semiautomatic handguns, don't leave casings behind. Police can try to compare bullets, but Koch, the crime lab director, said a pristine slug is needed to confirm a match.

He said few bullets recovered from crime scenes are in perfect condition, because they usually shatter on impact. Linking the Ruger to other area crimes, Koch said, could take weeks.

Homicide detectives said they hope the former girlfriend can help them trace the gun's history after it was reported stolen.

Hunter said he would like the gun returned, which police say is possible, but only after their investigation and trials conclude. Two people who were in the car were charged, one in connection with another gun found under the back seat, the other with auto theft.

"You have no idea how upset I was when that gun came up missing," Hunter said.

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