Local News

Durham police officers disciplined for using parts of seized weapons

Posted April 25

— Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said Friday that the department has disciplined several officers who took parts of weapons seized in criminal investigations and used them on their personal or department-issued weapons.

Seven employees of the Durham Police Department, including six sworn officers, were disciplined based on their degree of involvement and level of authority, Lopez said.

Capt. Kevin Cates was suspended for 80 hours, Lt. George Zeipekkis for 16 hours, Sgt. Nicholas Schneider for 24 hours, Sgt. Joseph Piatt for 40 hours, Officer Christopher Wiesemann for 24 hours and armorer Robert Rowley for 24 hours. Reserve Officer William Evans received a written reprimand and was suspended from off-duty work for one month.

In a written statement, Lopez said those involved mistakenly believed that, because seized weapons were being destroyed, they could use parts for personal or department-issued firearms. 

"While the officers had a genuine belief that their actions were appropriate, that belief was mistaken," he wrote. "I expect better judgment from my officers, especially those in supervisory positions. All involved are otherwise excellent veteran officers and staff with no history of significant disciplinary issues. I expect this lack of judgment to be isolated."

The weapons came from several cases, and the court orders were issued early last year, according to Kammie Michael, a spokeswoman for the police department. About 2,100 guns were involved in the orders, and the officers took "only a very small number of the guns" for their own use, she said.

Lopez said the officers involved in the investigation, which started in March 2013 and wrapped up in February, brought back parts that they had removed.

Many law enforcement agencies used to dismantle and destroy seized firearms after they were no longer needed as evidence in a case, but a law enacted last year now prohibits them from destroying weapons unless they lack a serial number or are in poor working order. Other weapons must be kept for training, donated to a museum or sold to a federally licensed firearms dealer.

Deputy Paul Sherwin, a spokesman for the Durham County Sheriff's Office, said his agency has often sought court orders to maintain seized firearms or parts of them, such as laser sights, for training purposes.

43 Comments

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  • The Anti Hans Apr 25, 6:08 p.m.

    So far I seen 9 different "cop haters" routinely posting again. "Nothing here to see" (from... View More

    — Posted by stymieindurham

    Are all of you people missing that part about the rule, or law, only changed a year ago? It's... View More

    — Posted by dwr1964

    Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

    The law is the law. And even if the law against police departments destroying weapons didn't exist, stripping guns down and keeping the parts for one's personal weapons still amounts to theft.

    Expecting these officers to face the criminal prosecution they deserve is wishful thinking, I know ...

  • GETOUT Apr 25, 4:51 p.m.

    There is no current Durham Police officer that has been arrested for DWI that is still working there! Try again TH! Lol

  • dwr1964 Apr 25, 4:50 p.m.

    Are all of you people missing that part about the rule, or law, only changed a year ago? It's probably something that was never even told to the officers.

    And stymieindurham......Exactly how is it that you paint me a cop hater?

    So far I seen 9 different "cop haters" routinely posting again. "Nothing here to see" (from... View More

    — Posted by stymieindurham

  • beaupeep Apr 25, 4:47 p.m.

    " They should auction the guns instead of just selling to dealers."

    They should be allowed to... View More

    — Posted by Grand Union

    See, because SMALL government would be selling/making use of them.

    BIG government would be demanding that they be destroyed for no reason, with all the accompanying paperwork, verification, red tape, etc.

  • disgusted2010 Apr 25, 4:46 p.m.

    "And yet, we've got right wingers here who would bash the BLM officers (sworn police officers) for doing THEIR jobs. So police are great unless you don't like what they are doing, is that it? I'm not agreeing that these officers are bad, they simply didn't use good judgement. And when you've got people whose job involves the use of deadly weapons, you'd expect that we'd WANT them using good judgement, now wouldn't we?????"

    The BLM officers were only doing what they were told; however, what they were doing was essentially illegal. They were confiscating a person's property with out due process of law AND the US Government was using officers who are supposed to enforce the criminal law in what is clearly a civil matter.

  • mep Apr 25, 4:40 p.m.

    I hate to see perfectly good weapons parts, destine for the melting pot be needlessly destroyed.... but I cant abide theft either. Especially by the police.

  • Apr 25, 4:31 p.m.

    So far I seen 9 different "cop haters" routinely posting again. "Nothing here to see" (from... View More

    — Posted by stymieindurham

    And yet, we've got right wingers here who would bash the BLM officers (sworn police officers) for doing THEIR jobs. So police are great unless you don't like what they are doing, is that it? I'm not agreeing that these officers are bad, they simply didn't use good judgement. And when you've got people whose job involves the use of deadly weapons, you'd expect that we'd WANT them using good judgement, now wouldn't we?????

  • SFSOLDIER Apr 25, 4:15 p.m.

    They are trying to "down-play" officers stealing parts of weapons for personal use..period!

  • Bealzebub Apr 25, 3:54 p.m.

    OK my question is this. What doe she mean by "personal weapon"? As in the pistol the PD issues him or like his own privately owned weapon? If they took these parts to fix issued weapons then the bigger problem is why are they having to do that at all? If it was for guns they privately owned at home then they should all be charged with theft. They know better than that.

  • hayzoos Apr 25, 3:49 p.m.

    Isn't it completely possible that their department issued weapon is a piece of garbage, and they were using these parts to make them useable? A friend of mine was issued his weapon and it wouldn't even fire. Took weeks for him to get a working weapon. (He carried his own during that time)

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