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IT’S GOOD TO BE HOME Troops returning from Afghanistan get joyful welcome from friends, family. A3

www.mlive.com

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2010

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GUNS GONE BAD: A PRESS INVESTIGATION

STICKING TO HIS GUNS THIEVES TARGET SHOP, BUT FELIX PYTLINSKE JR. IS NOT EASILY INTIMIDATED LAST IN A FOUR-PART SERIES BY JOHN AGAR THE GRAND RAPIDS PRESS

E

ighty-one years ago, Felix Pytlinske started Felix’s marine in Robinson Township overlooking Stearns Bayou on the Grand River. His son, Felix Pytlinske Jr., turns 80 Tuesday.

PRESS PHOTO/EMILY ZOLADZ

New energy: Rahn Bentley, 50, of Kentwood describes how it felt when he woke up with a new heart. He spoke at a press conference Tuesday.

He doesn’t know, he jokes, if he was named for his father — or the shop. But he knows it’s a tough business. Three burglaries in three years resulted in the loss of nearly 170 firearms. The thefts nearly did him in. They also put a lot of guns on the street. Pytlinske said police suggested, not so delicately, he close his shop after PRESS PHOTO/MARK COPIER burglars took 76 firearms in a 2008 break-in. Business perspective: Felix Pytlinske Jr., shown in his Robinson Township store, says break-ins at gun shops He scoffed. make headlines but account for a only a fraction of illegal guns. Break-ins at gun shops make headlines, but the stolen firearms put only a fraction of illegal guns on the street, The police term refers to how long a weapon he said. disappears before resurfacing in the wrong hands. “The number of guns in gun shops today is nothing compared to guns in For each day of this series, gun traces and Press private residences,” Pytlinske noted. research detail the firearms’ stories. Still, gun stores are popular targets for thieves. On the street, stolen Details: One of 16 guns stolen in a weapons are automatic cash, an easy Gun: .44-caliber Magnum Smith & business burglary turns up in Oakland way to fetch a few hundred dollars. Wesson County in November shoot-out with There they follow the same path as police Disappeared: Jan. 5, 2001 other illegal firearms, often disappearing for years before turning up in a FOR MORE ABOUT THIS CASE, SEE drug search, a traffic stop, or pointed A .44-caliber revolver that went Time to crime: Nine years, nine PAGE A7 months, 28 days at someone else. missing for nearly 10 years.

TIME TO CRIME

SEE SHOPS, A7

REPORT ILLEGAL GUNS: 616-774-2345

FOR MORE ABOUT THIS SPECIAL GRAND RAPIDS PRESS PARTNERSHIP WITH SILENT OBSERVER, SEE A7

Airport expects savings by outsourcing parking services at Gerald R. Ford International Airport, including the yearold $130 million four-story parking ramp, under a plan being considered today. Airport Board members are expected to vote on a staff recommendation to outsource parking operations BY KYLA KING to Chicago-based Standard Parking, THE GRAND RAPIDS PRESS which runs airport parking in Chicago, Atlanta, Kalamazoo, Traverse GRAND RAPIDS — A private firm City, Flint and Saginaw. would take over employee manageThe move is expected to save bement and operations of all parking tween $1.5 million and $1.9 million

Change ahead? Martin Makel of Hudsonville collects tickets in his parking booth at Gerald R. Ford International Airport, where he has worked for nine years. The Airport Board will vote today on outsourcing parking operations to a private firm.

But employees would have to reapply for jobs, then face pay, benefit cuts

PRESS PHOTO/EMILY ZOLADZ

over five years, but it also means considerably less pay and benefits. 19 union-represented Kent County Depending on years of seniority, employees would have to reapply airport parking attendants who staff for jobs that are very likely to have SEE PARKING, A2

SANTA GIRLS: WHY WE GIVE ©2010, The Grand Rapids Press

Advice/Puzzles ............B2 Business .....................A14 Classified Ads ..............C8 Comics......................... B4

Dr. David Horning, a retired urologist, has donated to Santa Claus Girls for about 45 years, either through his former practice or with his wife, Betsy. This year, the East Grand Rapids couple donated $100.

PRESS PHOTO/JESSICA SCOTT

INDEX Daily Briefing.............A16 Deaths .........................A11 Lottery..........................A2 Opinions..................... A17

Region..........................A3 Sports........................... C1 TV/Weather ................ B6 Your Life .......................B1

“WE ARE VERY HAPPY TO SHARE OUR RESOURCES WITH THOSE WHO DON’T HAVE MANY. ... IT MAKES PEOPLE HAPPY WHO DON’T HAVE THE MEANS TO DO SO THEMSELVES.”

Gift card sales are booming, A14 Indoor BMX track to open, C1

Heart recipient ready ‘to give back’ Rahn Bentley’s foundation to include college fund for donor’s children BY SUE THOMS THE GRAND RAPIDS PRESS

GRAND RAPIDS — Seventeen days after receiving a new heart, Rahn Bentley left the hospital Tuesday on a mission. “After being helped and loved by so many people through this, I now feel like I need to give back,” said Bentley, who underwent Grand Rapids’ first heart transplant on Nov. 27. Bentley announced the creation of the Off to See the Wizard Foundation, which will help families of organ donors and transplant recipients and fund efforts encouraging organ donations. The foundation’s first goal is to set up a college fund for the sons of Tim Korzen, the Ada Township resident who became an organ donor after he died of bacterial meningitis. Bentley received Korzen’s heart. “Rahn is pretty amazing,” said his twin brother, Ray, a sports broadcaster and former Buffalo Bills football player. “This is all his idea — of paying it forward. He knows he has been tremendously blessed, and he wants to pass that on.” His voice breaking with emotion, Rahn Bentley thanked the doctors, nurses and staff at Spectrum Health’s Meijer Heart Center. He called Korzen his “ultimate hero” and praised Korzen’s wife, Peggy, for speaking publicly about the organ donation. Bentley said he could tell the operation was a success when he awoke and felt the heart beating in SEE TRANSPLANT, A2

WHY DO YOU GIVE? E-mail your Santa Claus Girls memories to localnews@grpress.com. Donate easily online or learn more at santaclausgirls.org. Santa Claus Girls is a Press-sponsored charity that, since 1908, has aimed to ensure no child in Kent County is without a Christmas gift. Last year, thousands donated $179,504, and 13,460 children received presents. See page A2 for ways to help and today’s list of donors.

Check out statewide employment ads: mlive.com/jobs


GUNS GONE BAD: A PRESS INVESTIGATION

THE GRAND RAPIDS PRESS

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2010

Targeted three times: Felix Marine & Guns in Robinson Township was hit by burglars in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Arrests were made in the second case, but not yet in the others.

TIME TO CRIME: NINE YEARS, NINE MONTHS AND 28 DAYS

‘THEY COME FROM ALL OVER’ STOLEN GUN FOUND IN SHOOTOUT BY JOHN AGAR THE GRAND RAPIDS PRESS

KENT COUNTY — Nearly 10 years ago, burglars smashed a window at Johnnie Jones’ Rockford-area business. As burglaries go, they hit the jackpot. Sixteen guns were taken, including a couple of .357-caliber Rugers, a .44-caliber Magnum Smith & Wesson and a .380-caliber Grendel semi-automatic handgun. One turned up in 2005, when a Mason County man who bought the firearm at a gun show near Saginaw tried to register the weapon. Two years ago, another of the guns was found in a school locker in Iowa. Last month police found a third, the .44-caliber Magnum. The gun was in the hands of a 16-year-old, shooting at Oakland County cops. The gun’s “time to crime,” or how long it takes a disappeared weapon to turn up in an illegal context: Nine years, nine month and 28 days. The clock is still ticking on the other 13 stolen firearms. “They change hands so many times from the moment they’re stolen to the moment they’re recovered,” said Sgt. Marc Burns, a detective with the Kent County Sheriff’s Department. “They’re traded for drugs, used in the commission of crime. They steal them from each other.” It was the commission of a crime when one of Jones’ guns turned up last month in Pontiac. Undercover officers had been buying illegal drugs and planned a “buy/bust” on Nov. 2 with teenagers selling OxyContin, a prescription painkiller. When the teens sold vitamin pills instead, an undercover officer challenged them. The teens ran. A 16-year-old turned, firing the .44-caliber Magnum once. An undercover sheriff’s deputy fired four shots in return. The teen dropped the gun and gave up, Undersheriff Michael McCabe said. McCabe said guns found in Oakland County often come from Detroit, Flint and Saginaw, but also from Kent County. “They come from all over,” he said. Like many other legal gun owners, Jones, 67, was a victim. A big-game hunter, he had another 25 or 30 guns he had never fired, including antiques, that thieves missed in the Jan. 5, 2001, burglary.

Specials!

PRESS PHOTO/MARK COPIER

SHOP ARRESTS HELP RECOVER SOME STOLEN GUNS

Seized: Stolen near Rockford, this gun turned up in Pontiac almost 10 years later.

CONTINUED FROM A1

Police suspect the burglars were startled and left quickly. Electronics, including a bigscreen TV and VCR, were untouched. ”Someone knew exactly where to go,” said Jones, who is certain someone, maybe a former worker, knew about his guns, hidden in his office cabinet. He never imagined anyone would break the double-pane glass in a tall, narrow window to slip inside. Blood and hair was found on the window, He had door alarms, but not for broken windows or motion. Jones, who has since sold most of his guns, now has alarms throughout his business and home. His advice: “All guns should be under lock and key. And have motion sensors. I didn’t think they’d get through the window.”

Many times they remain in West Michigan. Others have been found in Saginaw, Detroit and beyond. No one has been caught in the 2006 or 2008 burglaries at Felix’s. Of the 76 weapons, the only one recovered was a .223-caliber rifle robbers apparently dropped not far from the scene, according to state police reports. But in 2007, Ottawa County sheriff’s deputies arrested three suspected gang members from the Holland area for break-ins at Felix’s and another shop, Gold Coast Outfitters. About 50 guns were taken from the businesses. Police recovered about half. “We found that most of the guns turned up on the east side of the state, Saginaw and Detroit,” said Ottawa Sheriff’s Lt. Mark Bennett. The arrests of the teenagers helped police find many guns

YOU CAN HELP Got a tip? Call it in The Press is joining with Silent Observer to help fund a gun-tip hotline.

before they hit the street, Bennett said. But Pytlinske said the sentence given the only adult isn’t much of a deterrence. Virakone Sivieng, then 18, was sentenced to six months in jail. A judge also ordered $45,000 in restitution to Felix’s and Gold Coast. Pytlinske isn’t holding his breath. In the 2006 burglary at Felix’s, Bennett said six of 60 stolen handguns were returned, while another half-dozen or so are being held by police agencies. In Grand Rapids, police said three of 12 guns stolen June 14 from Al & Bob’s Sports in Wyoming were recovered in Grand Rapids. One, a .22-caliber Ruger Mark III, was found after surveillance on a house in the 700 block of Seventh Street NW on July 21. Officers Thomas Warwick and Michael Rozema found

the gun in a van police stopped outside of an auto-parts store on Leonard Street. Authorities suspected passenger Jonqual Ernest Shaw, 18, was carrying a firearm. Warwick approached the vehicle from the right side. He said Shaw had a car battery on his lap. As Shaw put the battery down, he lifted it with his left hand by the strap, and put his right hand in his pocket, police said. “I informed him that if he again pulled his hand down toward his side, he would be shot,” Warwick wrote. Shaw denied having a gun. He then said he ate a bag of heroin, so police took him to the hospital, where he showed no such signs. Warwick said Shaw told him, “I should have made you shoot me. I swore I should have made you shoot me.” E-mail: jagar@grpress.com

If you have information about a lost or stolen gun, call Silent Observer at 616-774-2345. Tipsters stay strictly anonymous. The hotline will pay $250 to callers with information leading to the arrest of someone with an illegal gun.

MAKING A DONATION Checks can be made out to Silent Observer, earmarked for the “gun-tip hotline” and mailed to: Silent Observer, Box 230321, Grand Rapids MI 49523 Or go online to: bit.ly/SOhotline

COMING SUNDAY

We profile Chris Cameron, executive director of the state’s second-oldest Silent Observer program, in Sunday’s YourLife section.

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 SUNDAY: How legitimate guns end up in the wrong hands  MONDAY: One gun used in five shootings in Grand Rapids is still on the streets.  TUESDAY: Ride along with a local/federal task force aimed at getting guns off the streets.  TODAY: A look at some gun stores that have been hit by thieves repeatedly.

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Time-to-Crime-4 of 4  

www.mlive.com He doesn’t know, he jokes, if he was named for his father — or the shop. FOR MORE ABOUT THIS CASE, SEE PAGE A7 Gun: .44-calibe...

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