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Posted: 5/14/2004 5:56:38 AM EDT
Most of us shake in our boots at the thought of even putting a flash hider or tele-stock on a posty in the fear we'll spend 20 years playing catcher, but someone steals 523 guns and gets probation.


Man gets proof Tidwell took guns

EVIDENCE: A report documents what Floyd Whitson long suspected: theft by law enforcement.

01:04 AM PDT on Friday, May 14, 2004

By SHARON McNARY / The Press-Enterprise

Twenty-one years after the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department seized and claimed to have lost Floyd Whitson's gun collection, he found out who actually took it.

A San Bernardino County prosecutor's report says former Sheriff Floyd Tidwell took the guns, and then ignored a 1985 court order to return them. Tidwell, who was sheriff from 1983 until early 1991 pleaded guilty this week to four felony counts of concealing stolen property.

Whitson said. He never got them back and was not reimbursed for their 1983 value, about $16,000 to $20,000.

Former Sheriff Floyd Tidwell took at least 523 weapons, documents say. Tidwell also took weapons that were not documented, investigators say.  

"We were treated like criminals. I said, 'We're not thieves, you're the thieves.' But their officers are above the law and that's the way a heck of a lot of them act," Whitson said in a phone interview from his Missouri home.

Reached at home Thursday, Tidwell declined to comment, on the advice of his attorney.

Sheriff's deputies seized Whitson's collection of 20 weapons, including an antique Owl Head revolver, after he was arrested on a charge of possessing hashish and marijuana in 1983, he said.

When Whitson finished his 90-day jail term and asked for his weapons, the Sheriff's Department insisted they were lost.

He hired a lawyer who obtained a court order for their return.

The effort failed to secure the guns' return and Whitson couldn't afford to take the next step of filing a lawsuit.

Unknown to Whitson, inside the Sheriff's Department officials in charge of the evidence and property rooms knew Tidwell was taking guns that belonged to other people.

Tidwell's habit of taking 20 and 30 guns at a time led then-Sgt. Gary Eisenbiesz to hide the most valuable guns when Tidwell came around so that enough decent weapons remained to sell at the department's public auction, the prosecutor's report said.

Deputy Vince Palermo wrote a memo dated Nov. 11, 1985, that asked a sergeant in the property division what to do about some missing guns, the prosecutor's report said.

Palermo had been given a court order for the return of the guns to the Whitsons, and he knew that Tidwell had taken the guns, he told a sheriff investigator in March.

"Palermo said he wrote many memos regarding the guns Floyd (Tidwell) took," the report said. "Palermo even wrote on his copy of the memo the fact that Floyd did not return the guns as instructed in the court order."

Efforts to reach Palermo and Eisenbiesz were not successful Thursday. Tidwell's attorney, David Call, could not be reached.

The Whitson weapons were not among the 89 guns and rifles that Tidwell returned to sheriff's investigators Nov. 12.

The handguns filled two milk crates.

Whitson predicted the former sheriff would not be jailed.

"If it was me, I would go straight to jail with stolen weapons. I believe that anybody would, but he'll get probation," Whitson said.

Tidwell's plea agreement imposes no jail time, and it gives him and those to whom he gave weapons immunity from prosecution if they cooperate with the effort to return the weapons. Sentencing is in November.

Tidwell's plea agreement requires him to pay $10,000 to a victim restitution fund. Whitson said he might seek some of that money, but it would not fully cover his loss.

Tidwell took at least 523 weapons, according to memos that property room deputies wrote to document the incidents.

Tidwell also took other weapons that were not documented, the property room staffers told investigators.

Said Whitson, "In my heart I always believed that they stole my guns, and lo and behold, I was right."
Link Posted: 5/14/2004 6:03:15 AM EDT

Never a BATF agent around when you need one...
Link Posted: 5/14/2004 6:07:25 AM EDT
This is NOT an isolated incident!!
Link Posted: 5/14/2004 6:10:05 AM EDT

This is NOT an isolated incident!!

Shit more like the norm.   Not a bash, since most of the guns in question would never had been returned to the owners due to felony convictions and many would be destroyed in most states.

Two wrongs don't make a right but I don't like destroying guns.

Link Posted: 5/14/2004 6:15:08 AM EDT


Never a BATF agent around when you need one...

Im sure ole` Floyd let a couple of the local ATF guys have a rifle or two.

Floyd is a really neat guy, and a very good man for the 2nd, but he really should be treated like any other crook, thief.
Link Posted: 5/14/2004 6:16:03 AM EDT
Link Posted: 5/14/2004 6:19:08 AM EDT
When I was in Ft. Leonard Wood, I had my handguns stolen.
Funny how in 8 years, they haven't found one of them and returned it to me.
Hope the cops like my model 80 and my .357.
Since a lot of cops don't think we should have guns, they have no problems stealing them.
Link Posted: 5/14/2004 6:19:51 AM EDT
Link Posted: 5/14/2004 6:21:35 AM EDT

There is no justice.  Well, none that any of us can COUNT on.  Anymore, there is just us.
Link Posted: 5/14/2004 6:23:37 AM EDT
Here's a couple of stories that I posted in the Brothers of the shield forum on this subject:

LAT - Ex-San Bernardino Calif. Sheriff Admits Guilt on Stolen Gun Charges
Link Posted: 5/14/2004 6:35:04 AM EDT

The cops put another 523 guns back on the streets WITHOUT paper work. This ought to be investigated by the federals and there needs to be plenty SBC of cops in jail without their pensions and stolen guns.

This is just plain crazy, where is the justice?

I dont mind the cops putting 523 guns back on the streets WITHOUT paper at all!

Is it really crazy? SBSO does not sell off the rifles at public auction and has not for years. Sheriff Tidwell really liked neat/nice guns, and so does most of his friends, I have only met him once at a BBQ, But my family goes back pretty far w/ the Sheriff's dept.  Myself and a lot of my buddys have good things to say about Floyd.  This guy is very pro 2nd and would rather put those guns into the hands of people that would love them rather then see them goto Fontana for meltdown. Now Im not saying that what he did is 100% right, But most of the stuff that passes thru there is more often than not junk guns from some Meth head, but every once in a while you run across a nice lever action 30.30 or a old Colt pistol and what do you do?...I say make damn sure that there is no chance that the owner gets it back and then sell it!... But that is long past and you cant sell them, So Liberate them..... He took a gamble, and lost (kinda) this time, and I dont blame him. But if you are willing to play the game, you have to be willing to pay the price like any other man.
Link Posted: 5/14/2004 6:51:40 AM EDT



Never a BATF agent around when you need one...

Im sure ole` Floyd let a couple of the local ATF guys have a rifle or two.

Floyd is a really neat guy, and a very good man for the 2nd, but he really should be treated like any other crook, thief.

He's a "neat guy," but outright stole and refused to return the property of a citizen just like you or me. I don't smoke marijuana (never have and never will), but it's not the same thing as armed robbery or vehicular manslaughter while DUI.  Your last comment is spot on, but I just disagree with you labeling him "neat" when he should be labeled scum. Who cares if he's for the 2nd ammendment (except when it comes to him outright stealing yours!). Lots of "bad" people are I'm sure (look at Timothy Mcveigh). He should be getting jailtime. Guns that were to be destroyed rightfully so (as in convicted murderers' and felons' weapons), I don't care so much about that he took, but stealing a guy's personal collection that he legally had a right to is just fucking low.
Link Posted: 5/14/2004 7:09:45 AM EDT



This is NOT an isolated incident!!

Shit more like the norm.   Not a bash, since most of the guns in question would never had been returned to the owners due to felony convictions and many would be destroyed in most states.

Two wrongs don't make a right but I don't like destroying guns.


Better legitimately destroyed by court order than stolen for someone's personal collection.  We had a similar incident here with the head of a local crime lab.  I knew the guy and he was a top notch scientist, but he had a penchant for nice guns the way some alcoholics crave booze.  He did jail time when we found out what was going on.  Stealing is stealing no matter who does it.

Don't dissagree with that pal not at all but I don't see this as a cop bash issue than a personal ethics issue with this guy.  He probably saw this kind of like taking aluminum cans out of a dumpster.  Not his dumpster but hell they were going to thrown away anyway.  Still stealing and still wrong but there are more important things for me to get upset over than this.

I've lived in seven states and numerous cities and hung out with many cops.  From my personal experience, I know that the misplaced gun thing is pretty widespread. This guy of course was an extreme case.  Yes it's wrong and yes it's stealing but it's not what I would classify as JBT tactics either.

To me a gun is a tool and stealing the same is the same.  Still a theft, still wrong, however not the same as shooting someone or armed robbery.  

Link Posted: 5/14/2004 7:27:40 AM EDT
I can understand the "save them from the trash" mentality, but then why didn't he just have them auctioned off?
This was blatant abuse of power.  Stealing to further his own hobby.  He didn't only steal the guns that were set to be destroyed, he stole the ones that were set to go back to their owners.  The rest of the department covered it up by lying.
One of the linked articles says that if he cooperates he'll ask to have it reduced to a misdemeanor.  That should never happen.
I doubt that this particular department cares, but if they want other civilians to have any sort of faith or trust in them, they need to punish this guy just like they would anyone else.

But they won't.
Link Posted: 5/14/2004 10:17:32 AM EDT
Equal protection under the law. NOT!
Link Posted: 5/14/2004 10:25:10 AM EDT
This is utter nonsense.  I have been assured that no gun has ever been stolen by any LEO.  Amazing but true.
Link Posted: 5/14/2004 10:47:49 AM EDT
And yet other police departments are as honest about seized guns as you can get. A friend of mine loaned a handgun to a friend who he thought he could trust. The friend didn't return it and did something stupid and got the gun taken by Downey, CA police.

Downey tried to return the handgun to my friend, but for some reason couldn't locate him.  Around 6 years later, my friend told me the story. He was sure that the coppers had long since taken his gun. It was easily worth $600.

I convinced him to go to the station and at least ask about it.  He walked out with it a few minutes later. Not all cops are corrupt.
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