DeWitt police officer digs deep, uses passion to get firearms off streets

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“I think that a lot of departments have gotten away from investigating crimes, doing an actual investigation,” said DeWitt City Police Officer Clyde Smith. “There’s more to policing than … going out and issuing a complaint number for your insurance company.”

Sergeant Stolzfus (right) and Mayor Leeming (center) recognize Officer Smith’s work at a city council meeting. Photo courtesy of the City Government of DeWitt’s Facebook.

That’s why he volunteered to take on a recent case involving three juvenile suspects and the theft of several expensive items and cash.

“Officer Smith was just, you know, 110% to work on this, which is just the kind of guy he is,” said DeWitt Mayor Sue Leeming. “I’m really proud of our police staff. This is just, you know, one situation that kind of rose to the top, but there are many more like them where our police are very compassionate, humanitarian.”

In late August, two DeWitt residents returned home after a weekend away to find their hidden, locked safe open and $7,000 in cash, a family heirloom Rolex watch and multiple firearms missing. They began the investigation themselves, questioning their high school-age daughter, who had stayed home, on what she had done in their absence.

The victims’ daughter had spoken at length on social media with three high school friends over the weekend, and had invited them over. “They became suspects initially,” said Sgt. David Stolzfus, who said the daughter was not a suspect.

“We interviewed her at length, and she said … they had been hanging out in the basement of the home, away from the gun safe. At some point during the evening she had fallen asleep, and she believes that when she was asleep, the suspects began rummaging through the home,” before eventually locating the safe.

The suspects were initially partially identified based on their names in the daughter’s phone, and were positively identified after a social media investigation. All three were residents of Lansing Township. The social media investigation took some time to complete, and in the meantime the case sat open for “a couple weeks,” said Smith.

When the suspects were identified, Smith happened to know the family of one individual, and volunteered to take charge of the case. He contacted the suspect’s family and conducted an interview at the DeWitt police station.

“He was at first reluctant to talk. He was really friends with the other two guys involved, and no one wants to, as they say, ‘rat on the other person.’ He finally came around and told me, ‘yeah, I was there and I did take [$1,000],’ but he wouldn’t say who used what key, who found what key, who opened up the safe,” said Smith. He added that the suspect eventually admitted to touching the firearms.

Smith worked quickly – the day he interviewed the suspects, he recovered the stolen items. After interviewing the first suspect, he traveled to the home of the second suspect, intending to interview the individual. When he and a Lansing Township police sergeant arrived at the residence, both suspects were there, along with the firearms and Rolex.

The case has been handed off to the Ingham County Probate Court for potential proceedings. The suspects could face counts of larceny, possession of stolen property and possession of a firearm.

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