Firearms Fiasco: Baltimore County police return seized guns as owner’s lawsuit exposes cops’ missteps

By Van Smith

Published by City Paper, March 27, 2013

After two and a half years of fighting a lawsuit against Baltimore County police, gun collector David Bord’s pursuit of justice appears poised to bear fruit. Nearly all of the $250,000 worth of historic firearms, mostly machine guns, seized from him in a December 2009 raid on his home and business, were returned to him in December 2012. What remains to be determined is the how much damage his collection suffered during the three years they weren’t in his possession—and how badly law enforcers behaved in claiming a legal right to seize them in the first place.

“We’re going to do Baltimore like Fast and Furious,” says Bord, referring to the scandalous Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) operation that allowed illegally purchased firearms to continue in circulation, “but it’s going to be The Fast and the Stupid, because that’s how they handled this.”

“We are absolutely on the warpath,” adds Bord’s wife, Robin Bord. “How dare they do this to my family?”

The lawsuit (“Gun Trouble,” Mobtown Beat, June 6, 2012) claims that detective Erik Socha and Cpl. Anthony Kidwell led raids on the Bords’ home and auto-repair business that were based on a bad warrant “in order to intimidate” David Bord and cause him “economic injury.” The operations also were undertaken “for gratuitous sport rather than for proper law-enforcement purposes,” according to court documents, and Socha and Kidwell, when presented with all the proper firearms paperwork after the raids, said “save it for court,” that the paperwork was “wrong” or “bull***t,” and “words to the effect” that David Bord “would never get his property back.”

Now that the guns have been returned, a trial in Baltimore County Circuit Court before Judge H. Patrick Stringer Jr. seeks to determine the value of the damages the weapons suffered between the time they were seized and returned, as well as establish the costs borne by Bord for bringing the lawsuit and for legal representation while he was unsuccessfully prosecuted for gun crimes, according to statements made during the proceeding by William Butler, David Bord’s attorney. The trial so far has spanned three days, from March 19 through March 21, and is scheduled to resume on April 29.

The delay, says David Bord, is due to the sudden emergence of photographs of the guns as they were being seized, the existence of which he says Baltimore County previously had denied. Once the photographs have been properly analyzed, he explains, the trial will resume with better evidence to determine how badly the firearms were damaged during the three years they were gone.

While David Bord awaits Stringer’s determination of how much money Baltimore County should pay him, he can already enjoy some level of satisfaction from testimony about the cops’ missteps during the firearms seizure and its fallout. “Money is not my overriding issue,” he says, adding that Socha “spilled his guts” while testifying.

“He admitted on the stand that he has tire tracks on his back from being pushed under the bus” to take the fall after the ill-advised raids, which were based on a warrant in which Socha swore to having machine-gun expertise, yet “he never knew anything about machine guns,” David Bord says. “He signed his name on the warrant,” Bord continues, “and they knew it was all bad, and now they left him out to dry. By his own admission, he’s probably going to have to go get a new job.”

The county attorney handling the trial, Shawn Vinson, declined to comment, saying “the case is still ongoing,” while Butler was unavailable for comment before press time.

At the beginning of the trial, on March 19, Vinson told Stringer that “Baltimore County acknowledges that the plaintiff is entitled to possession” of the seized machine guns, but asserted there was “no admissible evidence” that they were damaged while in the county’s hands, pointing out that the seized collection also spent time with the ATF before they were returned. Butler, meanwhile, said the “wrongful taking and detention” of the collection, which was “mistreated” by law enforcers, means Bord “needs to be compensated.”

The collection’s seizure was the result of an ATF tip that Bord had a Hatton Industries machine gun he’d purchased at the Armory, a gun store in Annapolis, that agents thought was part of an allegedly fraudulent gun-registration ring based in Arizona that “harvested” serial numbers from older machine guns not covered by a federal ban, and welded them onto new guns they manufactured and then sold as pre-ban guns (“Blunderbusted,” Mobtown Beat, Aug. 5, 2010). The Arizona case ended in December jury convictions for the two defendants—including Marylander Randolph Rodman—who hadn’t previously pleaded guilty.

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