Skip to comments.West Palm Beach police return rare rifle (Buy back Program Ooops)
Posted on 07/15/2005 12:53:59 PM PDT by Cagey
West Palm Beach police returned a rare and valuable Japanese rifle accepted in last weekend's gun buy back program to a World War II Navy veteran Friday.
Bruno Filippelli, 79, of Delray Beach, said he felt sorry for inconveniencing the police but was happy to have the firearm, which a rare gun collector said could be worth as much as $5,000.
The Arisaka Type 99 pressure test rifle, one of only about 50 left from World War II, was set to be melted down and destroyed, along with about 450 other firearms collected by the police last weekend.
"I feel like a kid again," said Filippelli, on his way into the department to pick up his rifle. "It's like Christmas in July."
He bought it for two packs of Chesterfield cigarettes. He sold it for a $75 Target gift card.
But World War II Navy veteran and Delray Beach resident Bruno Filippelli never knew the Japanese rifle that collected dust in his closet for 60 years was a bona fide wartime treasure.
He turned it over to West Palm Beach police Saturday during the city's gun buy-back program, and the rare and valuable firearm better suited in a polished museum or with a wealthy weapons collector now lies alongside 450 other submitted shotguns, handguns and assault rifles in the department's evidence storage room.
"I feel like an idiot," said Filippelli, 79, four days after selling the rifle and just a few hours after discovering its worth.
And police say they're not giving it back. In fact, the gun could soon be melted down and destroyed with the others.
The controversy over the rare gun erupted when a picture of Filippelli turning over the rifle appeared in the Sunday edition of The Palm Beach Post. A Palm Beach police officer recognized the rare rifle, researched the gun and then delivered the bad news to Filippelli Wednesday.
"He told me, 'If I was you, I never would have turned it in,' " Filippelli said.
The gun, an Arisaka Type 99 pressure test rifle, is one of less than 100 ever produced. There are as few as 50 left, including about 20 in the United States, according to gun experts and dealers. The type of rifle was never used in the field. It was designed to test the chamber pressure and bullet velocity for the Type 99 rifle, which Imperial Japanese forces widely used throughout World War II.
Although the gun is not listed in most price guides, a piece in good shape could be valued by as much as $5,000, said Bob Adams, a rare-gun collector and firearms dealer in Albuquerque, N.M.
Adams, who sells Japanese rifles through mail orders and the Internet, said destroying the gun "would be a crime." He said West Palm Beach police should have identified the gun as a pressure test rifle that would not be used in violent crimes and should have never accepted it.
"That was a grave disservice to the guy that owned it and the whole collecting fraternity," Adams said. "That gun is history, and destroying history does not help the street crime problem."
The ultimate fate of the rifle is still up in the air, police officials said Thursday.
Police still need to determine if it is authentic and then donate it to an interested museum or destroy it with the others in the near future, said West Palm Beach police Lt. Chuck Reed, adding that a museum has contacted the department in reference to the gun.
Either way, police will not return the gun to Filippelli, said Reed, adding that returning it would defeat the purpose of the program, which was to get guns off the street.
"No matter the value of any of the guns, we're not going to resell any of them," he said.
Palm Beach Gardens resident Fred Honeycutt has catalogued the gun, along with many others, in his book, Military Rifles of Japan, now in its fifth edition. The retired engineer spent two weeks researching the book in Japan, where he met the gun's designers.
The Japanese produced the pressure test rifles in small amounts, and it is not known how many were assembled, said Honeycutt, whose wife spotted the picture of the gun in the newspaper.
"I didn't want it destroyed," he said. "It belongs in a museum."
Honeycutt contacted the police, and when they told him to find an interested museum, he contacted the National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Va., he said.
The police department's "mission is noble and they do have a purpose, but this gun doesn't really belong in that effort," Honeycutt said.
Doug Wicklund, a senior curator at the National Firearms Museum, said the museum has two of that particular rifle, and he knows of a couple more at other museums around the country, but that's about it.
"You could probably count on fingers and toes how many you have left in the U.S.," said Wicklund, adding that he wouldn't try to appraise the gun because he's never heard of one being sold before. "They were not something the average soldier would have in his tent with him."
Filippelli, originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., said he spent nearly two years at war, including six months on a light cruiser patrolling the waters around the Japanese islands. The cruiser often faced attacks from Japanese kamikaze pilots, but "knocked out a few airplanes" in that time, he said.
Just days after the Japanese surrendered on board the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay in September 1945, Filippelli purchased the gun and a Japanese saber at a small shop in Tokyo.
He said the rifle "struck him" because of its strange shape and how heavy it was. It was marked with an insignia and the serial No. 47.
"You could buy anything for a couple packs of cigarettes," he said.
On Thursday, Filippelli visited the West Palm Beach Police Department and met with a police officer, but had no luck retrieving the weapon.
The officer showed the World War II veteran his gun, and Filippelli showed the officer his initials BJF engraved on the bottom of its barrel, he said.
The ordeal has been disappointing, but Filippelli said he hopes the rifle's final battle will be won, and it will escape the melting pot and be exhibited in a museum.
"I'd feel really good about that," he said. "I'd hope I'd get some connective recognition with it for bringing it over from Japan.
"That's all I'm asking for."
Arisaka Type 99 pressure test rifle
No fool like an old fool.
It is unbelievable how utterly arrogant and closed minded these stupid cops are. They have the exact mindset of the NAZIs that sent people off to the gas chambers and then sit down to dinner with their family. This stupid cop is incapable of seeing the folly of his actions. This stupid cop is a total robot. He would follow rules no matter what. It is actions like these that rightfully give cops a bad reputation. It borders on insane. This poor guy deserves his rifle back. It is because of this seemingly prevalent mindset among LAE that I have very little respect for them. Cops like this are the enemy of true Liberty.
Lucky man. Where I live, the police would have reported that it was "lost" and then some years later, it would turn up in some retired cop's private collection.
What a crazy article. In the first sentence they say it was returned, then the rest of the story is about how the refuse to return it. Which is it?
Never mind. I see it's two articles.
Correction. That rifle still has it's markings.
Police are thugs.
A buddy of mine "turned in" a pearl handled, engraved, silverplated (or nickle silver)A1 condition Luger that he picked up on the battle field at Chosin. You should have seen the excitement at the Precinct. (As he related to me.) Some people........... I wonder where it is now? Melted? Yeah right.
...now lies alongside 450 other submitted shotguns, handguns and assault rifles...
I guess all rifles are now assault rifles.
That aside, I wonder how many rusted-up, obsolete pieces of junk got turned in for the $75 gift card from Target?
Absolutely. Can't have a 79-year-old WWII vet suddenly going crazy and murdering 20 people with this valuable antique.
I am compiling a list of stupid and evil police chiefs. Please contribute other examples. Thanks.
Glad someone with an adult IQ intervened, but I would still worry a lot about a force where a braindead vegetable can become a "Lt.," like "Lt. Jack Reed," who apparently is still allowed out by himself, not to mention actually carrying dangerous weapons.
Would have happend there too if the photo of it and the guy had not been in the paper. Most of the guns turned in at thses things are inoperable junk. The few that are actually worth something never head the the melting pot, they go to the cops who sell them.
Former police sergeant to plead guilty
By Karen Zapf TRIBUNE-REVIEW Friday, July 8, 2005
A former Plum police sergeant is expected to plead guilty today to reduced federal charges in connection with the theft of a handgun from the department's evidence room.
It was a high end .45 that the cops siezed for no reason. The owner forced them to return it and when he went to pick it up --- guess what? It was "missing".
Why does not some concerned citizen alert the BATF that the mayor, chief of police, et al are carrying on illegal trafficking in firearms right now at the corner of 4th and Main?...
Why is would be a crime emphasized in quotes? I can guess, and I am a little annoyed.
I can not believe a WW II veteran would be so naive as to even participate in the buy back scam. I don't know who to be more upset with.
Seriously, you are so right about police "perks".
My firewall won't let me hit that site from work, what is the price they are asking?
I believe good NRA Freepers should start an alternative to the police's collection program. We'll pay $100 for each firearm turned in. We then sell most pieces at auctions or shows (choice pieces retained for collections) to fund the site.
It's just the free market, we are offering more than the police..
For God's sake, get all these guns off the streets! I keep running over them and damaging my tires! Some streets are nearly impassable!
I thought of all of that, but it indicates he went down there himself. There are dealers, gunshows in palm beach are advertised monthly with "buy and sell" wording, even a friend of a friend.
Yes that is what I am describing on the top of the bolt housing.
With good behavior, he could be out in three months.
One set of laws for the ruling classes, and another for the peasants...
I always thought the Japanese ordered it because the chrysanthemum was the symbol of the royal family and it should not fall into enemy hands.
Currently, it's at $125 with four days left on the auction.
I'll have to put in a bid when I get home..
It has exactly what you described in a previous post. I'm not a collector and have little knowledge of Japanese rifles but learned something today.
Good luck on the Auction!
State laws vary of course, but federal law does not require any paperwork unless the seller is a federally licensed firearms dealer. It illegal, under federal law, to be engaged in the business of buying and selling firearms without a license. I'm sure this would not count as being engaged in the business, because the intent is not to make money. Florida, and the federales, require background checks of purchasers, not sellers. Law enforcement agencies are exempt from these requirements (as usual)
I guarantee you, that's where it will end up. That's where plenty buy-backs in good condition go.
(most were defaced after the war.)
Yeah..whats the value of a rifle with the emperors Crysanthymum hallmark?
“I always thought the Japanese ordered it because the chrysanthemum was the symbol of the royal family and it should not fall into enemy hands.”
I believe YOU’RE correct; in any case, the only ones with mums intact were brought back by vets as souvenirs, and they’re a bit tough to find.
When I was a kid, our Scout Master who served in the the invasion of the Philippines and then in the occupation force in Japans after the war, had two Jap rifles he brought home after he was discharged.
I handled them, -- they looked cheap from what I considered to be a rifle, and seemed heavy as hell at least for me at 12 year old, but I really can't recall if they had the chrysanthemum. I didn't know to even look for something like that then.
First time I handled a forty-five, I was a cub scout on a field trip to the local army garrison; I could barely lift it in one hand, and wondered how anyone could use such a thing.
I refuse to say how many decades ago that was...
The old duffer got his rare rifle back but what disgusting robotic behavior by the Palm Beach Police until they were shamed into giving it back. Sorry but I think a cop had his eye on that rifle. It was never going to be melted down.
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