Law enforcement officials got more than they expected when they asked a fisherman who found a gun to turn it in.
In an interview that ran in the Sept. 9 edition of The Messenger, Larry Hedlund, special agent with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, said the DCI had received a tip that someone fishing in Fort Dodge on the previous Sunday had found a gun that might be connected to a local shooting.
Since then, three complete firearms and a partial firearm, all of which have been recovered from the Des Moines River, where low water levels have exposed the river bottom, have been turned in, Hedlund said.
"We were at a Crime Stoppers meeting (on Sept. 9), and I started getting phone calls," he said. "By 10:30, we had recovered three firearms. All three of those will be submitted to the (state) crime lab for examination."
The original tip was that a fisherman found a shotgun near the Hydroelectric Dam, and that person has come forward, Hedlund said.
"One of the guns we recovered was the gun that was seen on Sunday," he said.
A reward was offered for the gun's recovery, and Hedlund said, "we are in the process of making good on the rewards."
Hedlund said local law enforcement officials are grateful to Crime Stoppers for the group's continued support, which includes providing reward money.
Although none of the recovered guns has yet been connected any specific shooting, law enforcement officials are continuing to work on two cases that possibly could be tied to guns found in the river. Lisa McCuddin was fatally shot while riding in the passenger side of a car early on the morning of Oct 2, 2004. Brandyn Preston was shot in the back of the neck while at a party at 1101 10th Ave. S.W. on May 8 of this year. Preston is paralyzed from the neck down.
On Monday, representatives from the Fort Dodge Police Department, Fort Dodge Fire Department, DCI and some volunteers spent most of the day searching the river bed, Hedlund said. Officials had received a tip about another weapon in a different part of the river.
"The search is ongoing," Hedlund said. "We're not done."
He also said officials appreciate the public's response.
"We were really impressed with the quick response and very appreciative," he said.
Not only did people call who had found guns, but people who knew of other people who found guns also called, Hedlund said.
"We've been receiving second- and third-hand calls, making sure we had recovered the guns. It's encouraging that people are reading the paper and care enough to call in and tell us," he said. "They certainly didn't have any legal obligation to do so, and we appreciate the help."
One of the people who turned in a gun is related to someone who has been shot at, Hedlund said, "so their motivation was probably more that than the reward."
Even in a community of this size, he said, everybody probably knows somebody who has been the victim of a violent crime.
"The consensus," Hedlund said, "is that people want the shootings to stop" and want the people doing the shooting to be held accountable.
He repeated his request for anyone who finds a gun to turn it in, no matter when it was discovered.
"If you found a gun six months ago, please call us. We'll come pick it up. If you find a gun next week, please call us. We'll pick it up."
Anyone finding a gun or anything that looks suspicious or like it might be of interest to local officials can call Hedlund, 571-0880; the Fort Dodge Police, 573-1426; or Crime Stoppers, where anonymous tips can be left by calling 573-1444 or through text messaging "LEC" and the tip to CRIMES (274637).
Contact Barbara Wallace Hughes at (515) 573-2141 or email@example.com