Beaver County Detectives are investigating what is being described by District Attorney Tony Berosh as a “major security concern” at the courthouse.
District Attorney Berosh tells the Beaver Countian that an incident occurred last week involving an employee of his office. This publication is not identifying any of the individuals involved by name as the incident addresses matters of personal safety.
An employee of the District Attorney’s Office, who carries a concealed weapon to and from work for personal protection, arrived at the courthouse last week and stowed their weapon in one of several gun lockers located inside of the front entrance to the building.
“My employees are not allowed to bring their weapons into the building,” explained District Attorney Berosh. “So they have to rely on these gun boxes to keep their weapons secure when they arrive to the courthouse.”
The employee locked the gun locker, took the key, and went about their day. Each locker has its own individual key.
Only uniformed officers and county detectives are permitted to carry weapons inside of the courthouse. Off-duty officers and courthouse personnel are required to store their handguns in the lockers, which can also be used by the general public. The lockers are provided in accordance with state law, which mandates they be made available at public courthouses. “Each county shall make available at or within the building containing a court facility … lockers or similar facilities at no charge or cost for the temporary checking of firearms by persons carrying firearms” reads the relevant statute. “Any individual checking a firearm … at a court facility must be issued a receipt.”
The county considers the locker key given to individuals as a “receipt” for purposes of the statute.
District Attorney Berosh said it was when the employee went to retrieve their weapon at the end of the day that they noticed it was missing from the locker. Sources say the employee “became frantic” and reported the gun was gone. County Detectives entered the weapon into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system as missing or stolen.
The Sheriff’s Department, who oversees the gun lockers and security at the doors to the courthouse, assured County Detectives there were no duplicate keys or any “master keys” to the gun lockers.
The next day, an employee of a county judge arrived at the courthouse carrying a concealed weapon. When they opened up their gun locker they discovered the other employee’s missing handgun inside.
“After it was discovered that my employee’s weapon was in their box, the County Detectives investigated further,” said Berosh. “What they discovered was that this one key was able to open five boxes in total, my employee’s box, the other employee’s box, and three other boxes.”
District Attorney Berosh said investigators haven’t been able to determine if his employee’s weapon was stolen and later returned or was simply placed in the wrong locker. “We really have no idea for sure yet, but I do know my employee insists they put their weapon in the right box that day.”
“We really are fortunate that we were the ones who discovered this,” said Berosh. “Imagine if a member of the public came in with a weapon that later turned up missing. How would the county explain that these keys fit multiple boxes? […] When a key can open multiple boxes obviously that’s a serious problem.”
Along with the general public and county employees, sources inside of the Sheriff’s Office say the gun lockers are also used by some of the county’s judges who carry concealed weapons to the courthouse for their personal protection.
“Absolutely there is no question that we have a major security concern here,” said District Attorney Berosh, “that’s why I passed a letter to the Commissioners, it is ultimately their responsibility to secure this courthouse.”
As a member of the County Prison Board, District Attorney Berosh also contacted Warden Bill Schouppe. “The situation at the jail is a little bit different, because members of the public are not allowed to bring weapons to the doors and have them stored there,” said Berosh. “But there are gun lockers available for police officers. I have a little bit more authority over those boxes because of my position on the Prison Board. I called the Warden and had him check his boxes, and there was one match down there as well, there was one key that opened up another box. He had a lock smith come and fix that problem the next day.”
Beaver County Commissioner Joe Spanik said he received the letter from District Attorney Tony Berosh notifying him about the incident at the courthouse. All three Commissioners are currently in Lancaster attending the annual conference of the County Commissioners Association.
“I want to know how did this happen. I want to know why did this happen. I want to know how we are going to make sure something like this doesn’t ever happen again,” Commissioner Spanik told the Beaver Countian. “We try to make sure we’re protecting our employees and citizens who come to the courthouse, this is something very serious that we need to address.”
Commissioner Spanik said it will now be up to Commissioner Tony Amadio to begin taking action. “As the Chairman, Commissioner Tony Amadio sets the agenda, so I would hope now that he has been made aware there are serious security problems at the courthouse he will schedule meetings for us to discuss them […] I believe we all need to sit down with District Attorney Berosh face to face and hear his suggestions on how we can fix this and some of the other problems we’ve had.”