Republican Congressional candidate John Katko is fighting back against accusations of wrongdoing relating to a gun crime that took place in April of 2000.
According to the Syracuse Post-Standard, Katko purchased a personal firearm to protect the safety of his family in late 1999. On April 3, 2000, Katko and his wife attended an event at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on the city’s west side. He left the gun, loaded, out of view in his car. While Katko was inside the church, someone broke into his car and stole a duffel bag, which contained the gun.
About a week later, the Post-Standard reported, the gun was used during the commission of a robbery-homicide.
Bryan C. Hunter, a 21-year-old parolee, was among several arrested after five men broke into an illegal gambling operation at 22 Burt St. During the crime, three men were shot; Vernon Griffin and Henderson Griffin were killed, while Robert Anderson survived his wounds. Hunter was captured April 8 in Auburn and was found to be in possession of a loaded handgun — Katko’s gun, according to police reports.
It was later determined that Katko’s gun was not used in either homicide. However, the Post-Standard reported that he likely violated federal policy in his storage of the weapon:
“When issued the gun after a threat against his life, Katko had to agree to follow the U.S. Marshals Service policy that requires ‘weapons be concealed from view when not in use and ‘stored in a secure manner to prevent theft, tampering, or misuse when not being carried,’” Mark Weiner wrote. “A presidential directive from 1997 required agencies to provide gun or trigger locks to federal law enforcement personnel. The idea was to help secure weapons when they weren’t being carried, and to prevent them from being fired by someone else.”
However, Katko did not have a gun lock. His media spokesperson told Weiner he was never issued one.
Katko issued the following statement in response to the report, which was sent out in an email entitled “Katko’s statement on his family’s safety”:
“In response to confirmed and credible threats against my family and me and at the urging of the United States Marshals Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, [my wife] Robin and I have incorporated their recommended total protection package into our daily lives. Part of that plan required me to legally obtain a protective weapon, which I did with proper approvals and training from the United States Department of Justice and the United States Marshals Service.
“Fourteen years ago I, too, became the victim of a crime. My protective weapon was stolen from a locked briefcase concealed from view in my locked vehicle.
“I left the weapon in that vehicle as my wife and I felt uncomfortable taking it into an area church for a required meeting with other Onondaga County Foster Parent Program volunteers … clearly not an appropriate venue to be carrying a weapon of any kind.
“This incident was fully investigated by the United States Department of Justice and the United States Marshals Service and no wrong doing was found.
“The stolen weapon was later recovered on a suspect in a double homicide; tests confirmed the weapon was not used in the commission of that crime.
“Those facts remain true today.
“My opponents have chosen to rehash this incident that was fully reported 14 years ago in an attempt to make it an issue in my race for U.S. Congress.
“I say to them and to all that I have no regrets about taking every security precaution required these past 20 years to reduce the very real physical threats to my children, my wife, and me.
“It is unfortunate that some have chosen to portray me as the bad guy when, in fact, I was the victim of a crime that resulted from my public service as a federal prosecutor to rid our neighborhoods of murderers, rapists, drug trafficker, and violent gangs.
“Robin and I both personally met with the Post-Standard in the days leading up to this story to share those facts and our concerns with its staff and executive leadership. Unfortunately, many relevant details of the situation were excluded from today’s story.
“People should know that I never back down from a fight. And I will not allow this story to distract from the needs of Central New York voters regarding jobs, our economy, fairness, and failed leadership in Washington.”
Katko releases first TV ad
Meanwhile, Katko has put out his first television commercial.
The spot, entitled “Courage,” highlights Katko’s experience as a federal prosecutor. In it, he earns the endorsement of fellow former federal prosecutor and current New York State Fair Director Bebette Yunis.
“I’ve known John Katko for 22 years,” Yunis says in the ad. “What stands out most about John to me is his personal courage on the U.S.-Mexico border and right here at home, getting violent criminals and illegal drugs off our streets, protecting our families. That courage, that commitment,will go to Congress with him.”
To see the commercial, visit johnkatkoforcongress.com/courage/.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.