110 year-old stolen firearm returned to owner

Historic City News has been notified by the Office of the United States Attorney that an antique family heirloom, stolen by a St. Augustine woman and her accomplice, was returned yesterday to the great grandson of its original owner in Houston, Texas.

Jamie Ann Knight, who formerly lived at 1539 Edgewood Place in St. Augustine, and her coconspirator Vyctor Ramone Lockett of Jacksonville, were arrested on December 16, 2010, when undercover ATF agents in Jacksonville, posing as gun buyers, contacted the sellers and arranged to purchase the stolen Colt revolver for $7,000.

On July 1, 1997, Kent Van Riper, the great grandson of James M. Van Riper, San Antonio’s Chief of Police in 1901, and his family, were passing through Jacksonville when they had their vehicle stolen from a hotel parking lot. Inside the vehicle was the nickel-plated, pearl-handled Colt single action .45 caliber revolver.

When the vehicle was recovered, the family discovered the family heirloom missing.

Chief Van Riper, the original owner, served as a Texas Ranger and a United States Marshal in Eagle Pass, Texas, prior to his appointment in San Antonio.

The revolver was easily identifiable as it is inscribed, “From Police Dept. to James M.Van Riper, San Antonio, Dec. 25, 1901, Chief of Police.” The firearm remained in the Van Riper family. It was passed down to Chief Van Riper’s son, who later became Police Chief himself.

Fourteen years after the theft, an elated Kent Van Riper was returned a treasure that he considers priceless. He was certain that he would never see the firearm again. “I cannot describe to you how I feel,” Van Riper said to reporters. “My grandfather gave this Colt to me on his deathbed.”

On June 22, 2011, U.S. District Judge Harvey E. Schlesinger sentenced Knight to 24 months in federal prison; and, on April 21, 2011, Lockett was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison for possession and attempted sale of a stolen firearm.

Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News contributed photograph by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

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