July 12, 2005

Indiana Cops Steal Octogenarian's Firearm

84 year old man shoots a burglar. DA calls it justifiable homicide. That was February. They still have his gun. Wanna know the reasoning?

"Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Frank Schaffer said Birtwhistle's revolver is part of a death investigation, and he'll never see it again.
'We keep weapons for evidence for our own records,' Schaffer said. 'You never know what's going to happen, so we keep it all."

Frank Schaffer. Worthwhile to remember his name, since it's not too often you run into a thief so proud of his work that he justifies it to the press. It's a wonder they didn't seize his house; after all that's where the incident happened.

& what does Mr. Schaffer's 84 year old victim say about all this?

"But that response isn't satisfactory to Birtwhistle, who said his only protection was his revolver.
'I'm an easy target,' he said. 'I'm feeble and have no (lung capacity). ... As far as I'm concerned, they have stolen that gun."

Damn right they stole it.

See a lot of gun owners would argue that any gun used in a shooting, even a justifiable one, can morally be taken to make sure the shooting was in fact justifiable. But since it's been 5 months & the DA has already called it a justifiable shooting, not to mention Mr. Schaffer's confession, we can avoid any such arguments. They stole a gun from an 84 year old man & they are not ashamed of it.

Of course they should return the firearm to Mr. Birtwhistle immedietely. I don't mean that sometime later today they can tell him to come pick it up; I mean they should put Mr. Schaffer in a squad car (in the back of course) & have a cop drive him & Mr. Birtwhistle's firearm (with the blue lights on) to Mr. Birtwhistle's home, return it, then have Mr. Schaffer lay prostrate at Mr. Birtwhistle's feet whilst he begs forgiveness for his justification of his larceny. Then the cop should leave after escorting Mr. Schaffer off Mr. Birtwhistle's property but without offering him a lift back to clean out his desk. & the people involved should pony up a suitable sum out of their own pockets to attempt to compensate Mr. Birtwhistle for the trauama caused by their theivery.

"I can't get (that February) incident out of my mind,' [Birtwhistle] said. 'If I'm not doing something, I'm thinking about it. The main thing is, I need protection. I'm getting along fine, but I'd get along better with that gun."

Eighty four friggin year old man has to plead for his means of defense back from the government who said he hasn't done anything wrong. Mr. Birtwhistle has a shotgun, but he prefers the pistol. Why?

"Recently, Birtwhistle has taken his grandfather's shotgun, which he's had locked away, to his bedroom for protection, but he still prefers his former weapon.
'The revolver is easier to use; it makes me feel more comfortable,' he said."

An 84 year old man is using his grandfather's shotgun as a means of defense. Now I agree that a shotgun is much better than a handgun for repelling invaders, but not if you're too infirm to work the damn thing right. Besides, we're talking about an 84 year old man's grandfather's shotgun. A conservative estimate would be that his grandfather was born 124 years ago. That'd be 1881. Let's assume his grandfather didn't acquire the shotgun in question until he was 30. That'd be 1911. (I know; a fine year for pistols.) Now a lot of firearms from around then work just fine but odds are we're talking about a single or double barrel shotgun. It was probably made well enough that with decent care it should be in fine working condition today. But we're still talking about a 7 to 9 pound shotgun that an 84 year old man would have to work.

The bastards should give the old man his pistol back. Then they should all be given a good switchin' - the kind where they have to pick out their own switch. & if they come back with a skinny little one you make them go back a bring a handful.

Deplorable. Abso-friggin-lutely deplorable. Until Mr. Birtwhistle's firearm is returned, I sincerely hope all responsible develop painful boils in embarrassing places.

Call. Write. Ask why the hell they're keeping an elderly man's property (& his preferred means of defense) contrary to all decency & morality, not to mention the law. If you wish to try to reason with them, here's the contact info & some choice bits from Indiana's Constitution

St. Joseph County Prosecutor's Office
227 W. Jefferson Blvd.
Suite 1000
South Bend, IN 46601
(574) 235-9544

The Constitution of the State of Indiana

Section 12. Openess of the courts, Speedy trial

"All courts shall be open; and every person, for injury done to him in his person, property, or reputation, shall have remedy by due course of law. Justice shall be administered freely, and without purchase; completely, and without denial; speedily, and without delay."

Section 13. Rights of accused, Rights of victims

"(a) In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall have the right to a public trial, by an impartial jury, in the county in which the offense shall have been committed; to be heard by himself and counsel; to demand the nature and cause of the accusation against him, and to have a copy thereof; to meet the witnesses face to face, and to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor.

(b) Victims of crime, as defined by law, shall have the right to be treated with fairness, dignity, and respect throughout the criminal justice process; and, as defined by law, to be informed of and present during public hearings and to confer with the prosecution, to the extent that exercising these rights does not infringe upon the constitutional rights of the accused."

Section 21. Compensation for services and property

"No person's particular services shall be demanded, without just compensation. No person's property shall be taken by law, without just compensation; nor, except in case of the State, without such compensation first assessed and tendered."

Section 32. Arms--Right to bear

"The people shall have a right to bear arms, for the defense of themselves and the State."

Section 8. Impeachment of other officers

"All State, county, township, and town officers, may be impeached, or removed from office, in such manner as may be prescribed by law."

Section 13. Removal of circuit court judges and Prosecuting attorneys

"Removal of Circuit Court Judges and Prosecuting Attorneys. Any Judge of the Circuit Court or Prosecuting Attorney, who shall have been convicted of corruption or other high crime, may, on information in the name of the State, be removed from office by the Supreme Court, or in such other manner as may be prescribed by law."

Posted by Publicola at July 12, 2005 07:29 AM | TrackBack

What does the Illinois criminal code say about "illegal conversion?"

In some states "illegal conversion" means that it's YOUR property and you can PROVE that, but someone ELSE has POSSESSION of it, and can prove that THEY didn't STEAL it.

If that individual REFUSES to return YOUR property, you can charge them with "Illegal conversion."

Usually there is a time period, either in statute law or in legal decisions for possession BEFORE it is chargeable, but....

Unfortunately, the amount would have to be significant for it to be a felony.....

Posted by: Front Porch Philosopher at July 12, 2005 08:19 AM

Call me crazy, but there ain't no way these freaks are going to return this gentleman's revolver. I had a thought -- tell me if I'm crazy -- if a bunch of us got together and chipped in for a revolver for this man, how nice would that be?


Posted by: Nicki at July 12, 2005 10:50 AM

I'm in. I'll start out with $10. If we get 18 people or so, I'll bet we can buy Mr. Birtwhistle a used .38.

Who's gonna join me?

Posted by: Libercontrarian at July 12, 2005 11:35 PM

I like the idea about all chipping in but I would rather chip in for legal fees so the 84- year old gentleman can have his own revolver and rightful property returned to him. In the mean time, someone could lend him an appropriate handgun. The prosecuting attorney, sounds like he might fit into the, mean spirited, ego- tripping, low self-esteemed, category? If you allow this selfish and unreasonable bully to stay there unchallenged, he's only going to try to hurt someone else.

Posted by: Geoff at July 13, 2005 12:07 AM

I can try and find out his address and phone number and see what he'd rather do.

I don't know if he's going to want to spend the money and effort to fight these people. I'm not sure I would at his age.

Posted by: Nicki at July 13, 2005 04:47 AM

"A conservative estimate would be that his grandfather was born 124 years ago. That'd be 1881. Let's assume his grandfather didn't acquire the shotgun in question until he was 30. That'd be 1911. (I know; a fine year for pistols.) Now a lot of firearms from around then work just fine but odds are we're talking about a single or double barrel shotgun. It was probably made well enough that with decent care it should be in fine working condition today. But we're still talking about a 7 to 9 pound shotgun that an 84 year old man would have to work."


What do you suppose the chances are that his g(a)randfather's scattergun has a damascus barrel(s)? And yes, a very good year for pistols . . .


Posted by: 'Berg at July 13, 2005 02:08 PM


If there is a fund to help purchase this Gentleman an new firearm I would like to contribute.


Posted by: Rick at July 13, 2005 02:47 PM

I too would skip lunch for a few days to scrounge up $15 or so to buy this man a gun. I'll keep an eye on this post to see if anyone else has the will and stamina to make it happen (I don't, and for that I apologize).


Posted by: Janine at July 14, 2005 07:33 AM

Everyone who is advocating buying him a new gun is missing the overall view...THE GOVERNMENT HAS STOLEN PRIVATE PROPERTY BECAUSE THEY DID NOT LIKE THE OWNERS POLITICS, EXPRESSION OF HIS NATURAL RIGHTS, AND HAD THE AUDACITY TO DEPEND ON AND DEFEND HIMSELF WITHOUT THE ALL POWERFUL GOVERNMENT APPROVAL! SO THEY STOLE HIS WEAPON. THEY REMOVED HIS RIGHTS. THEY ARE TRYING TO CONTROL HIM THROUGH FEAR AND GOVERNMENT POWER. Go ahead and buy him the gun, but also jump all over the police and district attorney for violation of the law, violation of the US Constitution, and force them to publicly appologise to the 84 year old victim and every gun owner in their state and the US, then resign for violations of the law (or better yet put them in prison for those violations)! That's the solution.

Posted by: BL Sechrist at July 14, 2005 08:07 AM

BL Seachrist has it right. This is a case of the government telling a citizen that he’s taken the law into his own hands, regardless of the fact that he needed to defend himself. This should be a wake up call to any citizen who claims the right to arm him/her self, to defend him/herself, to own property or to protect life itself. I say make those responsible get in front of a judge to explain their actions, make them apologize publicly and make them surrender their office, post or position held.

Posted by: TF Stern at July 14, 2005 10:42 AM

This is a follow up comment. I talked with a member of the prosecutor's staff, Joel Gabrielse a few moments ago. It would appear that some more investigation into the source of the story should be done. The Chief prosecutor was out of town at the time he was supposed to have made any statement. The reporter Ms Willis may have created this story, key words "may have". The newspaper has been approached in an effort to have a retraction printed or face charges. In any event, those who would violate the law, either by witholding unalienable rights to bear arms, or to fabricate stories which damage reputations, these folks need to be held accountable for their individual actions.

Posted by: TF Stern at July 14, 2005 10:57 AM

Stern, are you gonna keep us in suspense? What's the deal?

Posted by: Libercontrarian at July 14, 2005 07:45 PM

The prosecutor was out of town when the story was printed. Course that doesn't mean that he didn't talk to the reporter. Seems it's possible to talk with people when they're out of town nowadays. :D

The reporter talked to the prosecutor before he left town, & then after he left the story was run. Least according to another e-mail I got from TF Stern who wrote the reporter.

But keep things in persepctive - even if the prosecutor was out of town whenth story was being written that doesn't mean the reporter couldn't have talked with him. & the bottom line is an 84 year old man's property is still being held unjustly by the government.

Posted by: Publicola at July 14, 2005 09:30 PM

Could be a pump shotgun. I'm very proud of the 1897 Winchester pump that I inherited.

Posted by: Phelps at July 15, 2005 12:34 PM

And I'm in on any pledges to buy the man a new gun. We shouldn't let up on getting him his weapon back, but we also shouldn't have him sitting around with a weapon he's uncomfortable with in the meantime.

Posted by: Phelps at July 15, 2005 12:37 PM

Okay, nothing is ever simple; however, it does appear that the prosecutor's office is attempting to side step the issue and put out a smoke screen. There is nothing to indicate that the story was anything other than true in every aspect. I would think that a telephone campaigne is in order. Flood the prosecutor's office with call after call demanding the return of the gun to its rightful owner. Demand a full explanation of why the smoke screen was employed and lastly, put some heat on the justice department to follow up with charges against these bozo's.

Sorry I took so long getting you my thoughts. I had to make a living in the real world and while this isssue is important, paying my bills and staying in business is even more important.

Posted by: TF Stern at July 15, 2005 07:43 PM

BL has it right.

However, there's a defenseless man out there now. It's one thing to stand on principle and demand the gun back. We should. And the victim should. But pragmatically, he still needs to defend himself.

Frank Schaeffer should be raked over hot coals. Or at least arrested for theft. But that won't protect an old man. Only a gun will. And it seems unlikely that this gun will be returned in a timely manner, so I'd contribute to a fund to buy a new one. For pragmatic reasons.

Posted by: Janine at July 20, 2005 01:43 PM

Indiana law provides for the photographing of property such as this and the collecting of relevant data concerning the property, after which the property may be returned to the owner. This usually applies to stolen/recovered property, but in this particular case COULD apply to the handgun, since a determination has been made that the case was a justifiable homocide. The owner needs to get a writ of replevin....

Posted by: Paladin at July 26, 2005 01:23 AM

As Bob's sister I would like to reassure you that soon after the article appeared in the paper a policeman showed up on his doorstep and returned the gun! Thanks for the support.

Posted by: Nancy at August 11, 2005 06:40 PM

Some of us at the high road took up a collection and sent him a little over 300$. I hope if he has his handgun back he uses it for ammo, or for a better one. (Maybe a replacement, in case this happens again.)

Posted by: ksnecktieman at August 12, 2005 12:33 PM

Here is the link to our thread, if anyone wishes to read it.


Posted by: ksnecktieman at August 12, 2005 12:34 PM

deleted by Publicola at request of the commenter

Posted by: mspargur at September 25, 2005 02:11 PM
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