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At Anchorage police evidence auction, guns and mysterious miscellany go to high bidder

  • Author: Devin Kelly
  • Updated: July 8, 2016
  • Published July 18, 2015

In a high-ceilinged room filled with artwork, furniture and other knick-knacks, 114 firearms sat in metal baskets or leaned against wooden stands.

"MOA (Municipality of Anchorage) gun auction here today," the sign outside the Grubstake Auction warehouse in Northeast Anchorage declared.

Inside, Ron Alleva's voice boomed over the microphone: "Sold it on the net! Three and a quarter."

Every few months, the contents of the Anchorage Police Department's evidence locker and lost-and-found drawers go up for auction. At Saturday's auction, run by Grubstake, there were Smith & Wesson revolvers, various .22 caliber pistols and what auctioneers described as a collectible 9 mm German military Luger. Jewelry, sound equipment and electronics were also up for bidding.

Each item carried an aura of mystery about how it came into the police department's possession in the first place. Amber Garrison, head of APD's evidence unit, said police "don't have the staffing to entertain historical questions."

So whether the items were lost, unclaimed or confiscated by courts, their stories go untold. The pink iPod and Kindle; the various pieces of stereo equipment; the gold-plated coins labeled "In memory of Titanic victims."

Most of the gun bidders said they weren't too interested in the history. Gun dealer Ted Ireton bought three guns to resell, one of which he bought for parts.

"I don't care about the criminal history of these guns; I'm more interested in the real history of a gun, the price history," Ireton said.

Anchorage resident Paul Lightner paid $110 for a .22 caliber Burgo gun for self-protection. He also said he wasn't bothered by the history of the weapons.

"As long as it didn't kill someone," Lightner said. "And if it killed someone it wouldn't be on auction."

Despite the "guns and evidence" billing, the APD guns sold at the auction aren't only linked to crimes. Garrison said an APD auction gun generally comes from one of three categories: lost or abandoned, safekeeping held on behalf of a known owner who never came to reclaim their property, or property seized in the course of a criminal investigation.

Garrison said many of the guns that go to auction were simply turned into the police department and were never reclaimed. She said police investigate to determine whether a gun was stolen, and do their best to find the rightful owner, including advertising the weapon and sending a letter. That also goes for other belongings, like jewelry or sound equipment.

Police don't advertise guns or objects forfeited in a criminal case, Garrison said. Those go directly to auction, though police in some cases re-issue seized guns to officers.

As Lightner said, guns used in major crimes, like a homicide, don't make it to public auction, Garrison said. She cited a state law that requires police to hold evidence in such cases for at least 50 years.

Garrison said APD destroys guns only in certain cases, and within state law parameters. One example might be a gun discovered in spring cleanup that's rusted beyond repair, she said. In the case of a suicide, the victim's family can request that APD destroy the gun, and APD complies with those wishes, Garrison said.

Jesse Alleva, who works for his father Ron at Grubstake Auction, said that every once in a while, someone will ask why the guns aren't destroyed.

"It's kind of a hot-button issue," Alleva said. "But we're such a sportsman's state, (and) this feeds money back into the municipality. Budgetary concerns are pretty high right now."

Ron Hadden, city purchasing officer, said auctions generate about $225,000 annually for the city.

Each buyer must also pass a background check, Alleva said.

Meanwhile, the mysterious backgrounds of the items themselves add to some of the fun of the auction. Ron Alleva, the owner, pointed to the German luger, which a bidder online bought for $925 on Saturday. He said he's seen a snowplow, a kayak and a brand-new wood-splitter.

"You wouldn't believe the odd things that come in," Alleva said. "And you wonder, 'How in the world did anyone ever lose that?'"

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described one of the guns auctioned. It was a 9 mm German military Luger pistol, not 9-caliber.

Loren Holmes contributed to this story.