Sheriff’s Department returns seized guns

Martin watches handover from afar; ownership questions linger

A Fruitvale man whose guns were returned to him Tuesday wants a court to invalidate the search warrant under which they were taken 10 months ago.

Bill Martin, owner of A-1 Repossessions, also wants about $50,000 of his legal bills paid.

Martin watched from above, about 75 yards away, on the Riverside Parkway walkway Tuesday morning as Mesa County Sheriff’s Department officials transferred the weapons from one truck to another truck that he hired to transport the weapons.

Martin’s wife, Shelley, and a gunsmith who is familiar with the weapons oversaw the transfer, which took place inside the gated employee parking lot, an area surrounded by chain-link fence.

Martin, who relinquished his ownership of the guns to his wife, was prohibited from overseeing the exchange himself.

Martin’s weapons were confiscated last November when SWAT team members accompanied by federal agents raided his home and business and emptied a fortified cellar of more than 150 weapons and more than 30,000 rounds of ammunition.

Authorities seized the weapons, saying Martin was prohibited from owning them because he was a felon, having been convicted of vehicular assault in 1991.

Colorado law in July 1994 prohibited all felons from owning firearms. Martin contends that his civil rights were restored when he completed a sentence in 1993.

Applying the 1994 law to him retroactively is unconstitutional, Martin contends.

“Anyone who thinks that all felons can’t own guns doesn’t know his butt from a sugar bowl,” Martin said.

Local and federal prosecutors declined to pursue charges against him for the weapons possession.

Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said he and Sheriff Stan Hilkey declined to prosecute Martin because the 1994 law obviously didn’t apply to him.

Martin, however, could be prosecuted under the 1994 statute should he possess another firearm. He is now on notice that the state law applies to him, Hautzinger said.

“I think it’s very clear under Colorado law,” he said.

Martin is seeking a hearing before the Colorado Court of Appeals in hopes of invalidating the original search warrant and winning an order for attorney fees, he said.

In the meantime, he said he is unsure of the condition of the firearms, ammunition and other items taken from his home.

He was never provided with a receipt or an inventory of the weapons.

Martin said he will know whether a weapon wasn’t returned because each one had its own place and peg on the walls of his gun locker.

The gunsmith hired to inspect each weapon transferred will make sure each piece was returned in good condition and that there had been no tampering with any of them.


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