Dive Team Searches For Gun in Murky River

Thirty feet under the Ohio River’s surface makes for a pretty creepy scuba diving experience.

Just ask Wheeling Police Lt. Phil Redford and his diving team.

The group, consisting of three officers and three Wheeling firemen, on Tuesday were searching for a gun police believe was tossed into the river by a carjacking suspect.

“We used a metal detector. … Where we were off the shore it was 25-30 feet deep. Once we got down there it was pitch black, searching was very difficult,” he said. “It’s very creepy. You go from a few feet of visibility to a couple inches. … You don’t know what you’re going to bump into.”

The carjacking occurred Aug. 6 when a 17-year-old allegedly pointed a gun at a pair of men fishing near the Wellsburg water treatment plant. The suspect took their vehicle, a red Mitsubishi Eclipse, and drove it on W.Va. 2 toward Wheeling. Wheeling police found the vehicle in Warwood and took the suspect into custody on Heritage Trail near North 25th Street and Hazlett Avenue.

Redford said the divers were searching for the weapon in the river and riverbank near the area where the suspect was arrested.

“He didn’t have the gun on him. We suspect he threw it into the river,” Redford said. “We previously used an explosives dog to search the area, but we had no luck.”

If the gun was found, it is possible after it dries to lift fingerprints off of it, he said. The victims also may be able to identify the gun, he said.

“If we do find it underwater, first we would take a photo. … We don’t touch the gun. We collect it in a bucket with the dirt and sand around it,” he said. “We didn’t find it. We found a knife and pipes, and wrought iron and a Razor scooter.”

Redford said the team, dubbed the Wheeling Area Underwater Special Tactics Team, plans to try finding the gun again next week using sonar technology.