Robbins Commissioner Faces Charges
Robbins Town Commissioner Mark Garner said he offered to resign his seat Thursday night after informing the Town Board in a closed session of his arrest on charges of selling a stolen gun.
But he said the other board members asked him to remain.
Moore County sheriff's deputies arrested Garner, 49, on Monday and charged him with selling a stolen gun. Deputies also arrested Garner's son, Mark Lucas Garner, 17.
Deputies charged the father with possession of a firearm by a felon, possession of a stolen firearm and aiding and abetting fraud. They charged the son with larceny of the gun, felony possession of a stolen firearm and possession of a firearm by a minor.
Gregory Brower of Eagle Springs had reported that his Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum handgun was stolen Feb. 1. He said that he had last seen it in his residence weeks earlier.
As part of the investigation, deputies interviewed David Lee Cheek, the owner of Southern Variety and Collectibles.
Cheek told investigators that the Garners came into the store on Jan. 31 looking to sell a handgun. Cheek bought it for $300. He still had the gun and a copy of the receipt when deputies interviewed him.
Garner and his son turned themselves in to the Sheriff's Office. They were released with $5,000 unsecured bonds. Their first court hearing is March 5.
If convicted now of a felony, Garner would lose the right to vote or hold office and would be forced to leave the board in that case.
Garner said he hopes that won't happen. He called the incident a misunderstanding and said that he will be cleared.
"My son told me he'd bought a gun, a .357 Magnum," Garner said in a telephone interview Friday morning. "He's only 17. I told him it was awful high caliber for target shooting. He'd go broke doing that."
Lucas Garner decided to sell the gun, he said. He told his father that he bought it from his friend's girlfriend after some back-and-forth negotiation over the price. There were witnesses to the negotiation, Mark Garner said, but he had gone along with her to collect the weapon.
Neither father nor son knew that the girl's father had missed the pistol from his gun case and reported it stolen, Garner said.
Both Garners went up to the old movie theater in Robbins where David Cheek has just opened a store that sells collectibles. Lucas sold his gun to Cheek, who handed his father a receipt for him to sign.
While it is not illegal for minors to purchase or sell weapons, it is illegal for licensed dealers to buy or sell from anybody under 18. Mark Garner said he just assumed the receipt was some kind of parental permission for his son to sell this gun. He signed it and thought nothing of it, he said.
As it turned out, signing that paper appears to have made him the legal owner. Mark Garner cannot legally own or possess any firearm. He is a convicted felon.
"Fifteen years ago, I bought a bag of cocaine as a Christmas present for a friend," he said. "They called it 'possession with intent to sell' and that made me a convicted felon."
He said he has turned his life around long since.
"My civil rights were restored," he said. "Maybe I could have tried to get a pardon after all those years, but I never did."
Garner was elected to the town board in 2005. He said there is no way he would intentionally have tried to buy or sell a firearm. His previous conviction has now put him in legal jeopardy that threatens his work with the town.
Garner said he has not met with an attorney but feels it best that he refrain from further comments on the case at this time.
"It is rare with me that anything is as bad as it sounds," he said. "It always sounds worse than it is."
Garner intends to keep doing whatever he can to help his hometown, whether on the board or off -- but he very much hopes to be able to stay on the Town Board.
Matthew Moriarty can be reached at 693-2479 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. John Chappell can be reached at 783-5841 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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