Gun Temporarily Missing From Courthouse Lockbox

Beaver County, Pa., officials will meet next week to discuss security issues at the courthouse after an incident involving the lockboxes for handguns exposed problems with the keys that secure the boxes.

Beaver County District Attorney Anthony Berosh said the problem surfaced last week after a courthouse employee entered the building in the morning, placed a handgun in a lockbox in the courthouse entrance and went about her day. At the end of the day, the employee was leaving, opened the box and her gun was not inside.

Berosh said the employee immediately reported the missing gun and county detectives entered the gun as stolen in the state system. The next morning another employee arrived at work, opened his lockbox to store his gun and discovered another gun -- which turned out to be the missing gun from the previous day -- already inside of his box.

It was then discovered that one key opened five different lockboxes, Berosh said.

Beaver County Sheriff George David said the lockboxes have been in place since before he was sheriff, and until last week no one knew there was a problem with the keys.

He said a locksmith has been called to replace the locks and ensure that each box has its own key.

A similar problem was found with a couple of the lockboxes at the county jail, and those locks are also being replaced.

Just how the temporarily missing gun ended up in a different locker is still unknown.

David raised the possibility of the gun mistakenly being placed in the wrong box at the beginning of the day.

Berosh said the employee who owns the gun insists she placed it in the proper box. He said there was no video footage of the area to review to see if someone else moved the gun.

COUNTY POLICY

The county policy is that only uniformed police officers, deputies and county detectives can carry a firearm inside the courthouse.

David said county employees who carry a firearm on a regular basis use the same locker each day and take their keys home with them. Anyone else who comes to the courthouse with a firearm signs in to a book, is given a key, locks up their weapon and when they leave they return the key and a deputy retrieves their firearm.

The sign-in book contains the date, name and address of the person checking in a gun.

Asked about the book, Berosh said requiring people to sign in indirectly reveals who has a gun permit to anyone who sees the book, including other people signing in.

In Pennsylvania, personal information is not public for those who have a concealed carry permit.

Berosh said there is a possibility the county could incur liability by indirectly publicizing the information.

Asked about the potential for liability associated with the book, Beaver County Commissioner Chairman Tony Amadio referred such questions to the law department.

County solicitor Joe Askar was not in the office Thursday. Assistant solicitor Bernard Rabik said he has not been part of any discussions about the lockboxes or the policy and could not comment.

Both David and Amadio said the courthouse security policy was put into place before either of them were in office.

"The commissioners control the courthouse," Amadio said. He said there was a previous agreement to give security power to the sheriff's department, and the president judge has control over security on the second floor where the courts are located.

The county commissioners, county solicitors, Berosh and David are going to meet next week to discuss the security issue and make sure the locks to the boxes have been replaced.

Copyright 2014 - Beaver County Times, Pa.

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