CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Chris Fowler didn’t leave his car outside his office in Monroe for very long that day in January, but it was long enough for someone to break in and steal his gun.
“I came back from lunch and noticed my window was cracked down,” he said. “They actually busted the window out and pushed down, and the gun was underneath the seat.”
Two months later, police in west Charlotte answered a call at an apartment on Brooksvale Street where a man had been shot.
Detectives discovered that the gun involved was Fowler’s.
“We find the gun here in Charlotte, find the original owner and find out what they did with the firearm,” said Brian Wakeland.
Wakeland, a retired detective who has been hired back specifically to track guns police have taken off the streets, is the man who connected the dots.
He said officers, on average, remove about 200 firearms off the street each month.
“200 guns a month ... and probably 75 percent of them are guns taken from car break-ins,” Wakeland said.
Many of those weapons are used in crimes, like the robbery of a pawn shop on Freedom Drive in November. The suspect in that case led officers on a chase until he crashed in north Charlotte.
Police learned that the gun he used had been stolen.
“This was involved in a shooting ... the firearm was confiscated by our department,” Wakeland told Channel 9.
Most of the time, police can use serial numbers to quickly trace the guns they recover, but some, particularly stolen guns, aren't so easy. Those are the ones Wakeland has to track down.
And when he does, like when he could tell a man in West Virginia that they've found his gun, it’s very rewarding.
“OK, that was a success,” Wakeland said with a smile.
Fowler never expected to see his gun again.
“I'm glad they're doing this project,” he said. “It really did surprise me they had it that quick though.”
Wakeland's work is more than a lost and found operation. Police hope that by tracking the guns that are behind much of the city's alarming rise in violence, they can begin to turn that trend around.
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