U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
Middle District of Florida
Middle District of Florida
For Immediate Release
November 3, 2011
Robert E. O'Neill, United States Attorney
Contact: William Daniels, Public Affairs Officer
Stolen 110–Yr–Old Colt Revolver Recovered in Sting Operation and Returned to Police Chief’s Family
Jacksonville, Florida — United States Attorney Robert E. O’Neill announces the return of a 110–year–old Colt revolver that was stolen fourteen years ago. The firearm, a nickleplated pearl–handled Colt single action .45 caliber revolver, was originally presented to the Police Chief of the San Antonio (Texas) Police Department in 1901. The firearm was then stolen in 1997 from the Chief’s great grandson in Jacksonville, Florida. Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) recovered the firearm in 2010 during an undercover sting operation. The two individuals selling the firearm have both been sentenced to federal prison for their roles in the offense.
In 1901, James M. Van Riper was appointed the first Chief of the San Antonio Police Department by Mayor Marshall Hicks. Prior to his appointment, Chief Van Riper had served as a Texas Ranger and a United States Marshal assigned to Eagle Pass, Texas. Upon taking office, the police department presented Chief Van Riper with the nickle–plated pearl–handled Colt single action .45 caliber revolver engraved "FROM POLICE DEPT. TO JAMES M. VAN RIPER, SAN ANTONIO, DEC. 25, 1901, CHIEF OF POLICE." The firearm remained in the Van Riper family and was passed down to Chief Van Riper’s son (who later became Police Chief himself), and to his great grandson, Kent Van Riper.
On July 1, 1997, as Kent Van Riper and his family were passing through Jacksonville, their vehicle, with the Colt inside, was stolen from a hotel parking lot. The vehicle was later recovered, however, despite the efforts of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, First Coast Crime Stoppers, and the local media, the firearm was not located.
In December 2010, ATF agents in Houston received a tip from a firearms dealer, who specialized in antique firearms, that two individuals in Jacksonville were attempting to sell the Colt. ATF agents in Jacksonville, posing as gun buyers, contacted the sellers and arranged to purchase the Colt for $7,000. On December 16, 2010, undercover ATF agents met the sellers, Vyctor Ramone Lockett (33, of Jacksonville) and Jamie Ann Knight (35, of St. Augustine) in a restaurant parking lot on Jacksonville’s Northside. Lockett and Knight were both arrested and the firearm was recovered. Upon being notified the following day that the family heirloom had been recovered, Kent Van Riper told the ATF agents, "I cannot describe to you how I feel. My grandfather gave this Colt to me on his death bed. Being born in San Antonio and forever a Texan, I am very proud of my heritage. You have my sincerest heartfelt gratitude."
On April 21, 2011, U.S. District Judge Harvey E. Schlesinger sentenced Lockett to 37 months in federal prison for possession and attempted sale of a stolen firearm. On June 22, 2011, Judge Schlesinger sentenced Knight to 24 months in federal prison for possession and attempted sale of a stolen firearm. On November 2, 2011, ATF returned the Colt to Kent Van Riper.
The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Jacksonville, Florida, and Houston, Texas, Divisions. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Dineen A. Baker.
Stolen July 1997, in Jacksonville, the Colt single action .45 caliber revolver is engraved "FROM POLICE DEPT. TO JAMES M. VAN RIPER, SAN ANTONIO, DEC. 25, 1901, CHIEF OF POLICE." (Photo courtesy of ATF.)
Photograph 2: Chief Riper
San Antonio Police Chief James M. Van Riper, front row second from right, was the original owner of the Colt revolver. (Photo courtesy of the Van Riper family.)