Thursday, April 26, 2001
TALLAHASSEE — Two north Florida police chiefs were charged with stealing guns from a department evidence room and selling them, authorities said.
A nine-count federal indictment named Midway Police Chief Gene Gardner, 39, and Gretna Police Chief Antonio Jefferson, 35, accusing them of conspiracy and weapons violations. Investigators said Jefferson stole guns while he was in charge of the Midway Police Department in 1998 and Gardner carried on the scheme as Midway’s police chief when he took over after Jefferson that year.
The indictment accused the men of selling stolen guns that were being stored at the Midway department. Federal agents said weapons included .30-caliber hunting rifles, 12-gauge shotguns, 9 mm automatic pistols and a Chinese assault rifle.
Agents said they conducted an inventory of Midway’s evidence room after raiding the department in August and seizing police records of guns officers had turned in as evidence. Police are allowed to sell seized guns as long as the weapons are not stolen.
Both men, who are former Leon County Sheriff’s deputies, were arrested Tuesday. They were released from federal custody after pleading not guilty and posting signature bonds.
Robert Harper, Gardner’s attorney, said his client denied any wrongdoing. Jefferson was not available for comment.
“I feel pretty confident under the circumstances that we will have no other alternative than to dismiss him (Jefferson),” Gretna Mayor Evelyn Rollins said. It was not clear whether Gardner would remain as Midway’s police chief. Gretna and Midway are northwest of Tallahassee.
Jefferson left the Leon County Sheriff’s Office in 1996 to become Midway’s police chief. Gardner, who left the sheriff’s office to briefly work in another police department, took over for Jefferson when he resigned. He later left Midway to become Gretna’s police chief.