The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

December 11, 2013

Police decluttering won’t include Tommy gun

SHARON — Some old police records are heading for the shredder to clear some storage space at Sharon Police Department.

But the housecleaning won’t apply to a Thompson submachine gun tied by local legend to John Dillinger. The .45-caliber Tommy gun has been in the department’s arsenal for decades and isn’t going anywhere, Chief Mike Menster said.

The question arose last week after City Manager Scott Andrejchak told city council about plans to dispose of old records. That prompted Councilman Tom Burke, a retired police chief, to ask if the city might again try to sell the gun said to have been bought for the city by local bankers during the Depression when Dillinger and other infamous criminals were robbing banks.

“The legend is that Dillinger was robbing banks in this area in the 1930s,” Menster said. “I’ve been told the Tommy gun was bought for the department by McDowell Bank, but I don’t know if anybody could confirm that. The story goes that all the banks were worried about being robbed and they knew Dillinger had a Tommy gun so they wanted to level the playing field.”

Over the years, the department looked into selling the historic gun to buy modern weapons police would actually use. However, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms nixed the idea of selling it to a museum with guarantees that it would never be used on the streets, Lt. Gerald Smith said.

“It was bought for law enforcement use and they told us in a letter that it could only be used for law enforcement or sold in parts,” he said.

A gun dealer in 1985 offered $600 for the magazine that holds 50 bullets and there have been other offers for parts but the department isn’t interested, Smith said.

The iconic gun last fired in the 1990s is still in working order and holds interest for many people. The department would like to display it but Menster said that isn’t practical.

“It would be nice if we could safely display it but I don’t know how you would do it,” he said.

As for the records, City Manager Scott Andrejchak said historical societies can contact him about any interest they may have in the records. Menster said, though, “There’s nothing of much historical value” about the 15 bankers’ boxes of such things as old time sheets and traffic citations from the 1980s and ’90s that will be destroyed by a contractor certified to shred unwanted records.

“We have investigative reports that date back to the 1930s but we are not getting rid of those,” the police chief said.


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