By ALICIA LEONARD
In 1995 hurricane Opal swept through our area taking more than shingles and tree limbs from some. Dan Thomasek was one of those people. When Thomasek evacuated for Opal, his home was broken into and burglars took items such as his great-grandfather’s watches, rare coins and almost anything that could be sold.
One of the items that was stolen was a four-barrel Cop brand derringer. The gun is unique in that most Derringers only have two shots and use .22 caliber bullets. This gun has four barrels and can use .357 or .38 special ammunition. It was recovered and returned to the rightful owner almost 13 years after it was stolen, unfired and without a scratch.
“If I could have anything returned, I would have wanted this. My wife originally bought it for me as a special gift in 1986 in Bennington, Arkansas. She passed away in 1995 as well and her gift of this item to me was a special memory for me. It was never really meant to be used as it’s more of a collectable,” said Thomasek.
Thomasek tried in vain for years recover the stolen gun. He filed the necessary paperwork with local authorities, hired a private investigator and spoke with state representatives in what he grew to believe was quickly becoming a futile effort to get back the ” keepsake,” as Thomasek calls it.
“I had given up,” Thomasek chuckles, “and then, I got a call from the sheriff’s office.” Walton County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) Investigator Stephen Sunday got to deliver the good news to Thomasek. “I was very excited when I learned about the weapon being turned in. I knew Mr. Tomasek was going to be happy. When he returned my call, I could just tell it in his voice he was extremely pleased to know it was going to be returned to him. It’s not every day you get to return property to a victim which was stolen 12 years ago. It’s kind of rare.”
Thomasek had nothing but praise for Sunday and the WCSO in their recovery of the gun. “I didn’t really want to call attention to myself. I’m a homeowner here and I wanted to let people who have helped in its recovery know how much I appreciate what a good job Sheriff Johnson, Investigator Sunday and everyone involved have done in getting my property back. They did it in a very non-self- gratifying manner. Very matter of fact and totally professional when they returned it,” said Thomasek.
Sunday took the original report back in 1996 and said there are some ways that people can help to ensure if something like this items ever gets stolen they will have better odds of getting it returned. “We try to tell people to write down your serial number, model number, make, detailed description of your property and keep in a safe place. Even take a photograph of it, so that if it is stolen you have something to give to the police have had cases where victims would be in tears because of being a victim of theft, and they had no serial numbers and really very little information to give us and that makes our job harder. If you have property that doesn’t have a serial number, then I suggest to buy you an engraver and mark the property in some unique manner, maybe with your name, or something that you would be able to identify and know that that is your property.” said Sunday
How did Sunday feel about being able to close the case after 12 years?
“It makes you feel real good to be able to return property which meant a lot to a victim. I am very happy for Mr. Tomasek.”
Thomasek agrees. “It’s my keepsake and I’m glad to have it home again.”
By ALICIA LEONARD