Former Liberty Co. officer accused of stealing guns

HOUSTON The former Cleveland police officer faces an indictment with more than 100 violations, from possession of a stolen firearm to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. On Thursday, he turned himself in and faced a federal judge.

It started when a new administration took over at Cleveland Police Department at the beginning of 2009 and started taking inventory at 226 Peach Street.

During the weapons count, officers recorded fewer than 50 weapons in the property room. Court records show just two years before, there were 10 times as many.

"We should be able to trust them to do what's right, because they are supposed to be protecting us," Livingston resident Willy Barnes said.

After more than a year of digging, investigators zeroed in on the man who was custodian of the police department's property room from July 2007 until early 2009 -- Officer Harry Kelley. Since that time, he has worked as a captain at the Liberty County Sheriff's Office.

"The alleged criminality in the indictment is breathtaking in its scale," U.S. Attorney John Bales said.

On Thursday, Kelley was formally charged with 103 counts of possession of a stolen firearm and four related charges.

The indictment claims while Kelley drafted disposal orders for firearms, he never actually had them destroyed. Instead, court documents say he sold them to Gary Lee, the owner of a gun store.

"Public servants cannot be allowed to be permitted to abuse their office, their authority or their positions for their own personal benefit," Bales said.

Lee has since cooperated with investigators and pleaded guilty to possession of stolen firearms and ammunition.

Prosecutors say they intend to prove that Kelley also took ammunition provided to the Cleveland Police Department by federal agents. Bullets are commonly given to local departments in exchange for the use of their gun range.

"If he's a cop, he should be doing the right thing, not a bad thing," Cleveland resident BJ Bailey said.

Eyewitness News has been following the investigation since early this year when we asked Kelley questions regarding the allegations. He said Kelley wasn't there.

On Thursday, the 55-year-old veteran law enforcement officer surrendered to authorities.

While the ATF has recovered dozens of guns during the investigation, hundreds are still missing.

"There's no telling where they are. They could be going back on the streets," Cleveland resident Rachel Toczek said.

Kelley retired from Cleveland police in 2009, and prosecutors say there is no evidence of wrongdoing while at Liberty County. However, the Liberty County Sheriff's Office says as a result of the indictment, the captain will be placed on administrative leave without pay.

If convicted, Kelley could face decades in prison because each possession count can carry up to 10 years.

The Cleveland Advocate is also following this big story. They are a Houston Community Newspaper partner, and you can read their story here.
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