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Sheriff’s vehicle recovered, but firearm still missing

Hamilton County Sheriff Charmaine McGuffey's assigned county vehicle was stolen from her home driveway early Saturday morning; by Monday, the vehicle was recovered but McGuffey's duty weapon, which was locked inside the vehicle, is still missing.

McGuffey said there was no wrong-doing on her part and speculated that her key fob may have been cloned, allowing a thief access to her vehicle.

“Apparently there are ways that some of these criminals can override that key fob," McGuffey said on Sunday. “I don’t know that for a fact, but I have to assume that’s what happened.”

McGuffey said she responded to an incident Friday night and parked her vehicle in her driveway. She left her handgun in a compartment in the vehicle, not in plain sight. She said she wasn’t sure if she locked the compartment or not.

"My conduct was as the Sheriff of Hamilton County, a law enforcement officer who legally and appropriately has a weapon," she said. "Who legally and appropriately has a weapon in a vehicle in the event that there would be a call out, which there actually was."

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office firearms policy addresses the proper way a firearm should be stored in a vehicle: It says it should be locked and put in the trunk.

A spokesperson with the Sheriff's Office said McGuffey's gun was not in her trunk, but was concealed inside the a compartment in the vehicle.

Conceal carry instructor Jeff Chastain said he teaches his students to keep their guns on them or in a steel lock box, if they must remain inside a car.

"I'm not a big fan of leaving guns in cars," he said. "I think they make for lousy holsters."

He said with many guns being stolen as a result of unlocked or stolen cars, it's a gun-owner's responsibility to keep their guns secure.

"The thing that is most concerning is, sure you've got the loss of property, but it's the damage that can happen and hopefully I pray that doesn't happen," said Chastain.

Former Hamilton County Sheriff, Jim Neil, took aim at the situation on Monday in a social media post.

"I can tell you the vehicle and handgun were issued specifically to her, and it's her responsibility to secure both," reads a Facebook post by Neil. "She was absolutely negligent, and it's an abuse of power to declare she did nothing wrong. If this happened to any deputy they would certainly be subject to discipline."

McGuffey ousted Neil in the Democratic primary for Sheriff in April 2020, winning 70% of the vote.

No suspects in the theft of McGuffey's vehicle and gun have been identified and officials said the investigation is ongoing.

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