SELMA, AL (WSFA) - Three people, including a former evidence technician, are facing additional charges after hundreds of weapons were stolen from the Selma Police Department in an illegal gun-selling operation.
Adrianne Michelle Canterbury, 34, her husband, Richard Allen Canterbury, and Candice Nicole Ledbetter Byrum have been arrested and charged in the case. Selma Police Chief Spencer Collier says the trio operated a gun mill that's now been dismantled.
On Thursday night, officials revealed that the case was expanding with new details being released.
According to police, Adrianne Michelle Canterbury, who goes by Michelle, was taking weapons out of the evidence vault, the secure area where she worked, and her husband would fix them up so that the guns could then be sold online.
She was fired and arrested last week and charged with several counts of theft, as well as an ethics violation for allegedly using her office for personal gain and tampering with evidence.
She was accused of stealing fake gold jewelry and three guns out of the evidence room. One of those pistols was then used in a recent shooting in Dallas County that claimed the life of a 19-year-old man.
After her initial arrest, the department revealed that there were still ongoing and pending administrative and criminal investigations on the matter. The Selma Police Department learned through a tip that they should take a closer look at her husband, Richard.
He was under surveillance for a period of time when detectives initiated a traffic stop. A field interview was conducted and he agreed to come to headquarters and be interviewed.
Based off of those interviews and the information he provided, Selma police secured search warrants on the Canterbury home and their rented storage facility. Guns taken out of the evidence vault were discovered at both locations, the chief said.
"We recovered a few more weapons in the home. This was a second search warrant we served on the home so, obviously, guns were moved back into the house after the original search warrant. From there, we went to the storage locker and what we found there was probably the largest stash of guns, from a criminal perspective. It was a little overwhelming to see that amount," Collier stated.
More than 200 guns were found in the storage locker, according to the chief. Selma police confirmed that the bulk of the weapons were from the evidence room.
Since the story broke about the alleged illegal operation, a number of citizens who bought a gun from the Canterburys have returned them to the police department.
"If they purchased one of the weapons, that's not a crime. No one is at risk of getting in trouble unless they're a felon since convicted cannot be in possession of a firearm. But selling a gun person-to-person is not against the law. We would ask the public if they purchased any from either of the three, to come forward as the public is already doing," Chief Collier explained.
Richard Canterbury, the chief added, is a convicted felon, so it's against both state and federal law for him to be in possession of any firearm.
Collier told members of the media Friday that Michelle Canterbury was removing the guns from the weapons vault several at a time.
"We've matched that with time sheets where she was supposedly working overtime. Those time sheets were signed off by her immediate supervisor. He has been placed on administrative leave and has a resignation date. I plan not to accept his resignation and we are moving to terminate," Collier said.
The officer's name was not released. Michelle Canterbury was rearrested for theft.
Richard Canterbury, who is cooperating with police, was arrested and charged with receiving stolen property. Candice Byrum, who officials identified as "an acquaintance" of Richard Canterbury, is also facing charges of receiving stolen property.
Federal agencies are also involved in the investigation and the suspects could face additional charges.
"Ms. Canterbury was obviously selling some of the guns herself. For example, the gun used in the homicide in the county. But for the most part, it was a situation where she was getting the guns. According to Mr. Canterbury, she was telling him that she was buying those off of police wholesale websites," Chief Collier said. "He was basically acting as an armorer. Some of them needed repair given the age of some of them. Then, Ms. Byrum was advertising the pistols and long guns on the web for sale."
The evidence locker of weapons takes up about half the third floor of the police department.
Some of the guns have been there since 2000.
"Some people may be wondering how we didn't notice 200 guns missing. I just walked up there and we probably have 1000 guns, so just by the naked eye, you're not going to eyeball that and see that there's 200 missing," the chief said.
The narcotics evidence locker is kept in a different location and has a different supervising officer, and she alone holds the key to that vault.
When asked if the stolen guns would impact any court cases, the chief said that many of them have been condemned. To condemn a weapon, a judge has to sign off on it. The cases they were involved in have already been adjudicated, except for the gun connected to the recent murder in Dallas County.
The Selma Police Department's policy is to incinerate the weapons at that point, but that hasn't been happening.
"I can't control what they did before I became chief. I can't control that we went 17 years incinerating guns, but I can control that moving forward," Chief Collier stated.
A new officer is now overseeing the evidence vault. Cameras have been installed. Additionally, the department has gone to electronic backup software dealing with evidence.
"It's hard to audit when you're on a paper system. When they're stealing the guns and the paperwork assigned with it, it's almost impossible to audit that, especially given the number of weapons we have up there. But now all of that is backed up electronically," the chief added.
A new process for incinerating guns is also in place.
The guns recovered from the storage facility are back in evidence.
Selma PD is working with other local agencies to trace guns used in other recent crimes in the region.
"Unfortunately, through their greed and corruption, they've put more guns on the street when our mission is to take guns off the street," the chief told reporters. "This is one of the largest corruption cases I've seen. This was an ongoing criminal scheme. They were selling directly to people and online."
At this time, police don't yet have an exact amount of how many guns the three ultimately sold.
"There were more. They obviously were in the process of selling guns," the chief said. "We're desperately trying to identify as many guns as possible that made it to the street."
The police department is in communication with the Dallas County District Attorney's Office and the Dallas County Sheriff's Department regarding possible manslaughter charges in connection with the stolen 9mm that was used in the deadly shooting in Sardis.
"Each of them played a different role in this. Ultimately, that's very reckless behavior. And one of those pistols has unfortunately led to the death of a young man. So this case has grown substantially," Chief Collier stated.
Selma Mayor Darrio Melton also commented on the case Friday
"Not only are we policing inside the community, but we're also policing inside the police department," he said. "Hopefully this incident builds trust and will show that we are serious about addressing crime regardless of where it is, be it those who wear the uniform or those who are not in uniform. We're going to tackle the crime issue in our city."
Canterbury had been employed at the police department since November. Before that, she worked as a dispatcher with the Autauga County Sheriff's Office. She's also worked for the Dallas County Sheriff's Department as a 911 dispatcher and the state of Alabama in the past.