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SHERIDAN— A handgun reported stolen in Hardin, Mont., more than two decades ago turned up in a Sheridan pawn shop last week. Though it’s unlikely the thief will ever be found, the gun will be returned to its rightful owner.
Sheridan Police Department Capt. Scott Chandler said the gun was flagged during a routine inspection of items with serial numbers that had been turned in at the Pawn Broker and Repo Depot on North Main Street.
“When pawn shops take those in, they tell us about the transaction,” Chandler said. “We pick those pawn slips up once a month and run the serial numbers for firearms — or anything with a serial number, for that matter — and compare it against the database.”
The FBI’s National Crime Information Center maintains a list of stolen items the Sheridan Police can use to cross-reference any potentially suspicious items or routine transactions. Chandler said the SPD makes a habit of cross-checking pawned items with the list to avoid making stolen property become an easy paycheck for a criminal.
“A lot of people don’t know we check those slips every month,” Chandler said. “We recover stolen items every year.”
In this case, though, the person who pawned the .357 Smith & Wesson revolver wasn’t the one who took it. Rather, it was found three or four years ago in a dump site near Arvada. The hand grip needed replaced and it was missing its cylinder.
“It was just lying out there, deteriorated,” Chandler said, adding it was found along with a box of camera lenses that were also likely stolen years ago.
Chandler said police contacted the pawner, who relayed the story and said the gun had been restored at Little John’s Gun Center here. Little John’s verified the story.
The weapon was reported stolen Dec. 26, 1990. Chandler said last week the SPD contacted the Big Horn County Sheriff, who initially entered the weapons into the database, and informed them they had a cold hit.
If authorities in Montana are able to locate the owner, the gun will be returned, and the finder of the weapon will have lost the investment of its repair.