Updated: 8:25 p.m. | Posted: 6:07 p.m.
A burglary at the home of St. Paul mayoral contender Melvin Carter in August is cropping up as a campaign issue in the final stretch of the race.
Carter reported two handguns, a bag of ammunition, a video game and a box of cigars missing from the break-in. Some of the items were recovered later in an SUV police stopped on the east side. But the handguns remain missing. The Ramsey County Attorney's Office charged a 24-year-old St. Paul man last week with breaking into Carter's home.
Now, the city's police union, which has endorsed one of Carter's opponents, is faulting Carter for not better securing the weapons and for not offering detailed information about the weapons, including their serial numbers.
St. Paul Police Federation President Dave Titus said the theft put two more untraceable guns on the street. He also said that since police didn't have serial numbers of the pistols, they could be very difficult to get out of circulation.
"It may be a situation where an officer stops, looks at the gun, runs the (serial) number, there's no other reason to hold that individual, arrest that individual, or hold the gun, if it comes back clear, the officer won't be able to do anything with it," Titus said in an interview. "And that gun's going to drive off into tomorrow and still be a stolen gun out on the streets that we could have prevented."
The police union has endorsed former City Council member Pat Harris, one of the leading contenders in this year's mayoral race, and the campaign's leading proponent for adding more police to the city's force.
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Carter's campaign called the letter dated Tuesday an election season smear.
"The letter we received from the Saint Paul Police Federation demonstrates the way people of color are presumed guilty by police every day in our city," the campaign said in a statement. "The idea that a victim of a crime could become the accused based solely on the color of their skin is exactly why police culture needs to change, and it's why our campaign has proposed a police reform plan to rebuild trust in our community. This shameful attack exemplifies why that reform is so critical."
Titus, the union president, said the questions about the burglary were fair for a mayoral candidate. "This has nothing to do with race. If I were Melvin Carter and had shown such lack of effort to help with this investigation, they would point the blame elsewhere. It is very disheartening that they would bring it to this."
Carter did talk about the guns during a recent interview about his plans to curb crime if he is elected. He said the guns were his father's.
"That was very invasive experience," Carter said. "Of course, anybody having someone in your home, invading your home, particularly in the context of losing two prized possessions, in those firearms my father carried as a 28-year-member of the St. Paul Police Department, was heartbreaking. They represent for me all of that time that my dad spent working on these issues we're talking about."
Asked whether gun owners like him had any role for the proliferation of firearms, Carter said, "I think we all hold responsibility for the amount of guns in our culture."
Emily Weber, Carter's campaign manager, said in an interview that Carter had been "fully cooperative with the investigation," although said she didn't have all the details on the nature of Carter's report to investigators and if it included serial numbers for the guns.
"Clearly, they got the information they wanted because it was pursued and charges were filed," Weber said.