By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
The former police chief of the Prince George's County town of Morningside was indicted Tuesday by a grand jury on charges of selling a stolen handgun.
The five-count indictment charges David A. Eichelberger Jr., 30, of Accokeek with possession of a stolen firearm and sale of a stolen firearm.
He was fired Oct. 2 after news reports surfaced that he was under investigation in the sale of a handgun and a shotgun.
Todd Pounds, the town attorney, said Morningside's town council looked into the allegations and voted to dismiss Eichelberger from the force within 48 hours of news reports airing on TV.
Eichelberger was a patrol officer at the time of the alleged illegal gun sale, Pounds said. The Mornginside police force has six officers, one of whom serves as acting police chief, Pounds said.
The sale of the shotgun was determined to be legal, authorities said.
Morningside Mayor Karen Rooker did not return a phone message.
According to a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation, the charges stem from a gun sale that Eichelberger made in July to a man who owns an interest in an auto shop.
On July 1, Eichelberger backed his police cruiser into a garage bay at the auto repair shop, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case has yet to be resolved in court.
Eichelberger showed the auto shop owner and employees a Glock pistol and a shotgun, the source said. Eichelberger wanted $600 for both weapons. Ten days later, the shop owner paid Eichelberger $300 in cash, and two weeks later handed him another $300 in cash, the source said.
The shop owner who purchased the weapons wrote a letter detailing the illegal handgun transfer to Morningside's mayor and to several news organizations, the source said.
The Maryland State Police initiated an investigation. When he was interviewed by state police investigators, Eichelberger initially acknowledged selling the shotgun but denied selling the handgun, the source said.
Eventually, Eichelberger admitted that he sold the handgun, explaining that he had received it from a Baltimore police officer in 2005. A trace showed that the weapon was purchased in 2001 by Steven A. Armhold, who at the time was Morningside's police chief. The handgun was bought for the town's police force, the source said.
"It is our duty as law enforcement officials to protect -- not to entice citizens to participate in illegal activities," State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey said. "We want law enforcement to be working to get guns off the street, not to put them on the street."
One of Eichelberger's attorneys declined to comment.
Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.