|Ex-Chester cop says Bail okay’d civilian to strip gun parts
For the second consecutive Chester City Council meeting, the accusation that a civilian was allowed to enter the police evidence room and pillage spare parts from surrendered guns was a major topic of discussion.
William “Dusty” Rhoads, a local gun dealer who, since 1982, has relationships with police departments in Delaware County and elsewhere, was allegedly given permission by Chester Police Commissioner Joseph Bail to remove approximately “15 small sandwich bags” filled with springs, and wooden stocks or grips from guns in the evidence room at the Chester Police Station.
The guns were collected during the city’s “gun buy-back program.”
Former Chester police officer Luis Rodriguez told Mayor John Linder and City Council on Wednesday morning that he was instructed by Bail to give Rhoads access to the evidence room to remove gun parts.
Rodriguez said he was uncomfortable with the request and called his direct superiors, then-Lt. Col Darren Alston and Majors Robert Archacki and John Gretsky. Rodriguez said he was advised to have Bail put the permission in writing. Bail never did.
“Myself and Dusty Rhoads were inside Commissioner Bail’s office and he (Bail) gave Dusty permission,” said Rodriguez. “He (Bail) said he would provide me with a letter saying it’s okay for (Rhoads) to do this, which was go inside the evidence room and remove 14 or 15 parts off guns.”
Rodriguez said he never received the promised letter from Bail and after Rhoads’ initial visit, the licensed gun dealer asked to go back again, but Rodriguez would not allow him access.
When asked for comment, Bail declined, saying he would not make any remarks “at this time.”
The allegation was also investigated by now-retired Delaware County Criminal Investigative Division (CID) Detective Thomas Worrilow; now the part-time police chief in Bethel Township.
In a report filed by Worrilow and obtained by the Spirit, the case was marked “unfounded,” and closed.
Worrilow said his job was to determine whether any criminal activity took place, and his finding was there was no crime committed.
Rodriguez, who recently retired from the Chester Police Department, has been employed as a part-time officer in Bethel Township since 2009.
But on Thursday morning, the day following his Council appearance, Rodriguez was fired from the Bethel Police Department.
Bethel Supervisors Chairman John Camero, when contacted on Friday, confirmed Rodriguez’s dismissal, claiming only that it is a personnel matter.
“I am not at liberty to discuss this,” said Camero, “It’s about personnel.”
Several residents at the Council meeting expressed serious concerns about the accusations and raised questions about whether the gun parts could possibly find be recycled and used on a gun used to commit a crime in the future.
“I want to have a clear understanding of this because when you lose somebody by a shooting, then you hear something about parts of guns being taken from the evidence room, then you start to look at things a whole lot differently,” said Pastor Calvin Williams, whose son, Davon, was gunned down last May 28th.
“When you have to go through a funeral and it’s your child,” said Williams, “you’re not too happy. No telling where the gun came from. One of the problems we have in Chester is finding out where the guns came from. Then you lose a loved one and nobody can tell you where the gun has come from – something’s wrong with this picture.”
Linder expressed condolences to Williams, adding that guns involved in the buy-back program are taken to various locations in the city.
“There are no questions asked,” said Linder, “These guns cannot be used as evidence and their destination is to be melted down.”
Linder said he was not taking the matter lightly and had spoken with Bail to make certain those issues did not occur again.
“I can’t change the past,” Linder said, “I can only change what our behavior is now.”
Resident James Miller, who has been outspoken about this issue, said only a limited number of people are allowed in the evidence room and questioned the ramifications of allowing Rhoads into it.
“We are talking about a room where evidence which could be drugs and guns are kept,” said Miller. “When evidence is touched, everything and everybody is documented. So, when somebody comes in, around evidence, there is a possibility that cases from the time this started (and) the time this ended could have been tainted.”
Councilwoman Portia West asked to be kept apprised of the matter, adding that she wants to know the resolution.
Linder said he will report back to Council.
“As the mayor I sit here and am open to any question that comes from our citizens because we work for the taxpayers,” Linder said. “As I shared with you before, I have investigated this issue. I am limited in what I can say in reference to this matter because it relates to personnel… I believe I executed my role as mayor to find out how, and why, it happened and it will not happen again.”