UPDATE: Guns to be forfeited as penalty for illegal sale linked to officer's death

Saturday, November 1, 2008 | 9:37 p.m. CDT; updated 10:44 p.m. CDT, Saturday, November 1, 2008

COLUMBIA — The gun that was used to shoot and kill Columbia Police officer Molly Bowden in 2005 has been traced to an unlicensed firearms dealer in Iowa, Columbia police said Friday.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives traced the Smith & Wesson .380 caliber semi-automatic pistol to Bela Hummel in Eldon, Iowa. The 73-year-old had been selling weapons without a license since 1990, according to a news release from the U.S. Aattorney's Office for the Southern District of Iowa, and had more than 700 weapons in his business inventory.       

On Oct. 24, Hummel was ordered by U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Longstaff to turn over the weapons in what is considered one of the largest firearm forfeitures in the history of the Southern District of Iowa, the release states. Further, Hummel has agreed to give up more than 50 of his personal firearms instead of paying a fine. He will also serve 100 hours of community service, serve three years of probation and pay $100 to the Crime Victims Fund.

Richard T. Evans used the handgun in question to shoot Bowden in January 2005 after she pulled him over on Nifong Boulevard. He later used the gun to shoot another officer and then kill himself after he fled from police. Bowden died a month later in the hospital as a result of her injuries. The other officer, Curtis Brown, went through months of rehabilitation and eventually returned to active duty.

Capt. Brian Nelson of the Columbia Police Department said guns involved in crimes are subjected to analysis including ballistics testing to determine if the gun has been used in any other crimes in Missouri. In this case, however, the department notified the the bureau immediately and asked for its help in tracing the gun back to its source.

"We thought it was important in this case because the gun had been involved in the shooting of one of our officers," Nelson said.

The bureau's investigation is based primarily on serial numbers, Nelson said, which it used to track the gun back to Hummel's illegal business, he said. The bureau then made several undercover purchases before arresting Hummel for selling unlicensed firearms.

Nelson said the department doesn't know exactly how the gun got to Evans, though it passed through several hands along the way.

"That's probably something we'll never know," he said.

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