Saturday, December 13, 2003

Two state workers suspended over gun

They turned in pistol found, but after two days

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - Two state transportation workers were suspended Friday while officials investigate why they did not immediately report that they had found a handgun along an interstate ramp.

Three workers found the Jennings .380-caliber gun at 8:30 a.m. Sunday, according to the State Highway Patrol and the Ohio Department of Transportation. The employees did not report the gun for two days, when the weapon was turned over to the patrol.

The gun was found on the west side of Columbus in the grass on a ramp from Interstate 270 south to U.S. 40 while the workers were putting up signs, said Michelle May, an ODOT spokeswoman.

The location is several miles west of a stretch of I-270 where authorities are investigating a string of 15 shootings. The gun has been turned over to the Franklin County Sheriff's office, which is leading the investigation.

"Right now, it's not pertinent," Chief Deputy Steve Martin said Friday when asked about the gun.

May said two of the three workers handled and unloaded the gun before putting it in a plastic bag and placing it in the glove compartment of an ODOT truck. She said she did not know why they waited to report the gun.

ODOT Director Gordon Procter called the employees' actions unacceptable behavior that defies state policies and common sense.

Jimmy S. Gaines, 49, a transportation manager and 31-year ODOT employee, and Chris Chesser, 44, a route marker and 18-year ODOT employee, face discipline that could include firing, Procter said.

A third employee assigned to the crew has been questioned, but remains on the job. He did not handle the gun.

Dan Aumiller, a suburban Columbus gun shop owner, said the gun is an inexpensive model.

"It just fills that need for someone who wants to buy a cheap gun," he said. "It certainly wouldn't be one I would want to stake much reliability on."

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