A Tale of Lost Guns in D.C. Evidence Locker

     WASHINGTON (CN) — A lab manager sued the District of Columbia Department of Forensic Sciences, claiming it fired him for reporting that guns were leaving its custody and returning after being used in other crimes in the city.
     Jason Kolowski claims the department fired him one week after he disclosed an “anomaly” in the its database that showed weapons with the same serial number entered twice for unrelated cases.
     He discovered information in the database in August 2014 and reported it to the department’s general counsel Christine Funk the next month, Kolowski says in his May 18 complaint in Superior Court.
     Funk is not a defendant. The defendants are the District of Columbia and its Department of Forensic Sciences.
     “While a number of the anomalies and discrepancies were reconciled through plaintiff’s research, plaintiff was unable to reconcile approximately twenty-four (24) firearms that appeared to have been logged as previously being stored in MPD [Metropolitan Police Department] evidence custody, only to have been later used in additional crimes in the District of Columbia, which led to the previously stored firearms being re-submitted as evidence in new and wholly unrelated matters,” Kolowski says in the complaint.
     In February, the Daily Caller, a right-wing Internet news site, published an internal memo from DFS covering the same time period. The department said some of the “anomalies” were a result of its using one database to log the guns Washington residents submitted for registration with the police department and those that were the subject of investigations.
     If a registered gun was used in a crime between 2008 and 2012, it would show up twice in the database despite being entered only once into custody, according to the memo.
     But the department could not say how other weapons ended up being logged twice in the system, according to the news report. In one such instance, police recovered a .32 pistol from a man who was carrying it without a license. The gun was logged into the database only to turn up again in 2009, when police recovered it from a different man who was also carrying the gun without a license.
     “Without any additional records from 2005, it is unclear how the .32 Auto left MPD custody to be recovered again in 2009,” according to the memo, as cited by the Daily Caller. “This requires further investigation.”
     After meeting with Funk in September 2014, Kolowski, who by that time had risen to director of the Forensic Science Laboratory Division, instituted a policy to have employees search the gun database before entering new weapons, to check whether it was already listed as in department custody.
     In May 2015, Kolowski says, he scheduled another meeting, with DFS General Counsel Robert Hildum, to talk about the errors in the database, which Kolowski says he “reasonably believed demonstrated gross mismanagement and posed a substantial and specific danger to the health and safety of the citizens of the District of Columbia.”
     One week after that May 11, 2015 meeting, Kolowski says, he was out of a job.
     “Defendant’s unlawful conduct has created a climate of fear and intimidation for plaintiff and other employees, which creates a chilling effect upon other employees’ willingness to engage in protected whistleblower activity,” Kolowski says in the complaint.
     He seeks lost wages and benefits, future wages and damages for whistleblower violations.
     His attorney Donna William Rucker, with Tully Rinckey, not immediately available for comment.
     The Department of Forensic Sciences did not respond to two requests for comment.

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