Man charged with selling guns to felon who killed Plymouth Township officer
Michael J. Henry, 30, had one thing going for him: a clean record. His lack of a criminal past allowed him to buy guns.
Michael J. Henry, 30, had one thing going for him: a clean record.
His lack of a criminal past allowed him to buy guns.
Andrew C. Thomas, 44, had served time for forgery. He could not legally buy firearms, but he wanted lots of them, police said.
Henry, of Philadelphia, and Thomas, of Bala Cynwyd, met in April. On May 30, Henry, allegedly acting as a "straw purchaser," went to a Jeffersonville gun shop and bought a .9mm Beretta - the weapon that authorities said Thomas used five months later to kill Plymouth Township K-9 Officer Bradley Fox.
Though Henry could have legally bought the gun for himself, he broke the law when he did it for Thomas, Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said.
So on Wednesday, Henry, of the 900 block of North 41st Street, was arrested and charged with nine felonies, each relating to illegally buying firearms for Thomas and giving sworn falsification to authorities. The latter charges flow from allegations that Henry lied on gun-sale applications by claiming the weapons were for himself.
He was arraigned Wednesday in Conshohocken before District Judge Frank Bernhardt, who ordered him held on $1 million bail.
Outside the court, black bunting in memory of Fox hung on the windows. A dozen uniformed Plymouth Township officers watched as Henry was led in handcuffs to a waiting police car for the trip to Montgomery County prison.
Fox, who was one day away from turning 35, was killed in the line of duty Sept. 13. He died of a single gunshot wound to the head while pursuing a hit-and-run suspect near Conshohocken and Ernest Station Roads in Plymouth Township.
Thomas ambushed Fox from behind tall weeds along the Schuylkill Trail. Police said Thomas died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest.
Detectives said they traced the murder weapon and found Henry had bought it for Thomas at In Site Firearms, 2101 W. Main St., Jeffersonville.
The gun was registered in Henry's name, according to information released at the news briefing.
Investigators said Henry told them that from April 10 to July 31, he bought nine firearms for Thomas, including the Beretta. Henry said Thomas paid him $500 for making each purchase, and provided the money up front.
The weapons, two rifles and seven pistols, were bought at In Site Firearms and another gun shop, French Creek Outfitters in Phoenixville, Chester County, police said. Six of the guns were from In Site.
"In exchange for $500, Mr. Henry would go to one of the shops and would purchase whatever firearms Mr. Thomas was requesting," Ferman said. Then Henry "would hand it over to him in the parking lot."
"He put nine guns into the hands of a felon," she said. "And one of those guns was used to kill a police officer."
According to an affidavit of probable cause, Thomas and Henry discussed the possibility of being stopped by the police while carrying one of the weapons. Thomas told Henry he would flee.
"Thomas told Henry that he 'wouldn't go alive' and that he 'would shoot a cop' " rather than be captured, the affidavit said.
Thomas was wanted in Montgomery County on minor forgery charges, police said.
Ferman said Henry had a history of drug use. She did not know how he spent the money he made buying the firearms for Thomas. Police seek the public's help in finding the other eight weapons.
"There are eight other guns out there on the street that could get in the wrong hands," the district attorney said.
According to its website, In Site Firearms in the Burnridge Shopping Center is owned and operated by retired West Norriton Police Officer Luke J. Kelly. Kelly was not at the gun store Wednesday, and there was no answer at his home phone.
A store employee who declined to give his name said only: "We are currently cooperating with the District Attorney's Office. An investigation is ongoing."
Michael Friedland, owner of French Creek Outfitters, said Henry passed all of the needed state and national background checks.
"If we suspect in any way [the gun] is bought for somebody else, we have the duty to and right to refuse sale," Friedland said. About twice a year, the store refuses to sell weapons to those it suspects may be buying the gun for another.
Friedland said he felt terrible about Fox's death.
The officer's killing touched off a week of memorial ceremonies, including a vigil outside the home of his wife, Lynsay Fox, 28, in Gilbertsville; a motorcycle ride to the Plymouth police station; and a memorial service and burial that drew mourners from as far as Chicago and Canada.
Fox, a Marine who served two tours in Iraq, was buried with full military honors in Bucks County.
Since the funeral, numerous fund-raisers to assist his family have been held in Montgomery County. Fox left a 6-month-old daughter, and his wife is expecting the couple's second child in March.