Online Exclusive

Family, Calif. Sheriff's Department Battle Over Guns


A local family says the Kern County Sheriff's Department has destroyed several of their guns even though a court allegedly ordered the firearms to be returned.

Paul Caswell and his wife Rhonda said they are furious over a gun dispute with the Kern County Sheriff’s Department.

Nine firearms were seized from his father-in-law's property following the Sheriff Department's bust of an illegal marijuana grow back in 2009 on land they own in the Lake Isabella area.

The Caswells have maintained they didn't know the pot farm was there, since their property spans 180 acres of mountainous terrain.

The case was adjudicated in August of 2010 and in April 2011, a judge ordered the nine weapons be returned to Rhonda Caswell but they never made it because most of the guns were destroyed.

One of the guns dates from the late 1800s and has been handed down from generation to generation within his family... and that gun existed up until last week.

"The gun that I'm mainly worried about was my grandfather's weapon. Its 130 years old. It's a family heirloom. They said that seven of them were destroyed along with a bunch of other property and two of them are still there but they are going to be auctioned off," said owner of the guns, Paul Caswell

Court documents indicate the weapons had to be returned within 30 days from the order which was dated April 28, 2011, but Caswell says it was physically impossible for he and his wife Rhonda to pick them up.

"We were out of the state in Washington because I'm in the army and I just can't come back. I don't make enough money just to come to Bakersfield and get stuff and then we get there yesterday and they tell us all the weapons have been destroyed except for two," said Caswell.

23 ABC spoke to Ray Pruitt from the Kern County Sheriff's Department who said they were never contacted by the Caswells and regardless of any court order, the guns were not registered to Rhonda or Paul. Therefore the guns would not have been returned to them anyway.

Officials say by law they had to wait six months to destroy them but they waited until just last week -- just days before the Caswells tried to pick them up.

Pruitt said the reason the guns weren't destroyed until last week, long after the six-month period, is because they only destroy weapons every so often. The Caswells are asking the sheriff's department for proof that the guns were destroyed to make sure they don't end up on the street.

Do you have more information about this story? Contact usReport a typo or inaccuracyCopyright 2011 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten