HOOVER, ALABAMA – It is a sad, sordid, suburban tale of a gun.
A police officer’s gun. A gun that ended up in the wrong hands. And, because of a series of bad decisions, a gun that ended a man’s life.
And it all happened in the span of several hours.
Hoover police Capt. Gregg Rector gave this account of what happened on Oct. 1: A police officer from a suburban city stopped in a Hoover bar and, well, heard the call of nature. He stepped into a stall, did his business and left – leaving his weapon behind.
By the time he realized what he had left behind, the Glock was gone.
And the second part of the story began.
Police say Steven Michael Bradford, 25, of Bessemer, found the gun in the On Tap bathroom. He took it and left with his friends to drink more at Fuego Cantina on Southside. He told his friend, Matthew Lee Dodd, 26, also of Bessemer, about his find.
Dodd offered to buy the $600-plus gun for $225, and Bradford sold it on the spot. Dodd and another friend, age 24, left a short time later, and stopped at the Chevron station on University Boulevard for snacks.
The gun was tucked between the two front seats. Dodd went inside to get snacks. The friend stayed behind in the car. As Dodd walked toward the convenience store, he heard a popping sound. He went back to the car, and found his friend dead in the car with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
The officer, whose agency Hoover police declined to identify out of professional courtesy, found out what happened the following morning, before he had even reported the gun missing. Another police officer called to tell him about the shooting in Birmingham the previous night. “Somewhere along the line, he put two and two together, and realized it may have been his gun,” Rector said.
The officer filed a report with Hoover police. He also notified his own chief of the missing weapon.
The death investigation was left up to Birmingham police, because it happened in that jurisdiction. Birmingham homicide Sgt. Scott Thurmond said today they are waiting for the final report from the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office, but have investigated the death as a suicide. “We know he pulled the trigger, and that no criminal act took place,” in the shooting, Thurmond said.
Thurmond added that the gun did not belong to a Birmingham officer.
Though Hoover had no role in the death investigation, Rector said Hoover police officials thought it important someone be held accountable for the chain of events that ended with a man dead.
“We took it very seriously,” Rector said. He said he didn’t know whether the officer would face any disciplinary action, because that would be left up to the chief of that agency.
Hoover launched their own investigation and today arrested both Bradford and Dodd.
Bradford is charged with second-degree theft of lost property. Dodd is charged with receiving stolen property. Both were being held in the Hoover City Jail this afternoon, awaiting transfer to the Jefferson County Jail. Their bond is set at $10,000.
“We’ve got confessions from both of them,” Rector said. “They were upset that what happened happened. But the fact is one took something that didn’t belong to him, and the other bought something that he knew was stolen. Tragically, the third one winds up dead.”
Rector said this was one of the most bizarre cases he’s worked.
“No one ever wants to misplace a gun, especially if you’re a police officer,” he said. “You’ve lost something that has the potential for someone to take a life with it.”
“I am sure this guy feels terrible,” Rector continued. “He’s probably embarrassed that he lost his gun, and unfortunately something tragic happened within hours of him doing so.”