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How could such a man
have such a lethal arsenal?


© St. Petersburg Times, published May 21, 1998

As private arsenals go, it wasn't all that impressive. But in the hands of a man who spent most of his adult life hurtling toward tragedy, it was deadly mix.

• Carr stayed free by staying invisible
Outpouring of support is overwhelming
Survivors are offered financial aid

Trooper from small town gave life for job he loved
A grandmother grieves for the boy she raised
'Stress' teams offer comfort to officers

• How could such a man have such a lethal arsenal?
• An evil beyond words robs us all
Phone calls to gunman raise concerns about media's role
Hometown mourns for trooper
Killing leaves student shaken

Standoff leaves Shell in disarray
Killer's shirt gives cafe unwelcome publicity
Police in Citrus reviewing guidelines after officers' deaths

Two SKS semiautomatic rifles, one Russian and one Chinese, one heavily modified and one not, and a solid black shotgun commonly used for home and boat protection.

On Tuesday morning, a crime-scene technician carried the unmodified SKS from Hank Earl Carr's apartment. It was believed to be the weapon that killed Joey Bennett, the 4-year-old son of Carr's girlfriend.

Later that day, Tampa police Detective Rick Childers carried out the heavily modified SKS with its folding stock and illegal 30-cartridge magazine, removed the magazine and placed both items in the trunk of his unmarked green Ford Taurus. Someone also carried out the black shotgun.

It was the modified SKS Carr said he retrieved from the trunk and used on his deadly sprint up Interstate 75 after he killed Childers and Detective Randy Bell with Childers' gun.

The nagging question is how a man with one outstanding arrest warrant in Florida and three in Ohio, a man with prison records for, among other things, burglary, assault, grand theft, parole violation, cocaine possession and resisting a police officer with violence, a man with a record of 22 arrests who by law should not have been in possession of even a single weapon, could arm himself so heavily.

"It's one of the prices we pay to live in a free society," said Lee County Sheriff John McDougall. "Before the child was shot, any search of the premises would have been illegal."

While no one is saying -- if anyone even knows at this point -- where Carr got his weapons, they are easily attainable in Florida. Gun shows can give unscrupulous dealers opportunity to advertise themselves as unlicensed collectors and sell weapons without the documentation required by law and without mandatory background checks.

And it is legal for an individual to sell a personal gun without paperwork or background checks.

Carr also had several aliases, so if anyone had run a background check, it might not have turned up his police record.

The SKS in both its Russian and Chinese versions is one of the most-traced weapons involved in crime, and it has been at the heart of some well-known ones.

A gunman sprayed the White House with gunfire from an SKS in October 1994, and it was an SKS that was used to seriously wound Tampa police Officers Mike Vigil and Kevin Howell in March 1995. The Chinese version, not as well made as the Russian, is favored by street gangs because it can be bought cheaply, sometimes for under $200.

"It's not a powerful gun," said Don Schofield, owner of Don Schofield guns in Tampa. "It has a muzzle velocity of 2,300 feet per second, which is low, and the bullet weighs 123 grains, which is big."

Other similar models can fire 40-grain bullets with a muzzle velocity of 3,650 fps. But the weapon, in its standard configuration, is often favored because it is reliable. Modified as heavily as Carr's second gun, especially equipped with the oversized magazine, the weapon is considered very unreliable.

"We used to sell them, but we don't any more," said Wain Roberts, owner of Wain Roberts Firearms in Pinellas Park and a supporter of stricter gun law enforcement. "There are legitimate collectors for the SKS, but it also attracts an element of people I just didn't want to deal with."
-- Times staff writers Larry Dougherty and Robin Mitchell and researcher Kitty Bennett contributed to this report.

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