Stolen gun probe could turn on 'loan' vs. 'transfer'

Baltimore police major remains suspended amid inquiry

March 31, 2011|Justin Fenton, The Baltimore Sun

A determination of whether there was criminal conduct in the case of a gun that was registered to a Baltimore police commander but stolen from a Southeast Baltimore business may rest on whether the gun was "loaned" or "transferred."

Maryland's highest court ruled in 2006 that it is legal for a regulated handgun to be "loaned" between two people who are permitted to own and obtain a handgun. Although the state regulates the transfer of firearms, the Court of Appeals said that "transfer" only refers to a permanent exchange of title or possession and "does not include gratuitous temporary exchanges or loans."

The case involved a Washington police officer convicted of giving a handgun to a man. The man claimed he intended to purchase the gun but decided to return it. He was arrested before he could give it back, he said.

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Alan M. Wilner argued that a loan was a transfer if the firearm was in someone else's possession for anything more than a momentary period, such as testing at a range.

On Saturday, Nicolas Ramos, owner of the Arcos Restaurant, reported that someone broke into his office and stole a .38-caliber revolver, according to the police report.

The gun was traced back to Maj. Anthony Brown, a former Southeast District supervisor who now oversees other units. It was his personal weapon. Police have suspended Brown's police powers pending a review of the incident.

According to sources with knowledge of the investigation, Ramos said the gun was loaned to him but he also said he had had it for years. Police found a box containing 50 rounds of ammunition, and Ramos knew the serial number.

Ramos is a member of the governor's Hispanic affairs commission, was a member of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's transition team and was among several co-hosts of a fundraiser for her in January.

Ramos twice hung up on a Sun reporter seeking comment. But his wife told WMAR on Thursday that thieves had twice struck the restaurant and that the gun was for protection. She said they were "upset that another handgun had fallen into the wrong hands," the station reported.

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