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Police issue caution after loaded pistol found in residential neighbourhood

Police warn that triggers can be modified so guns will fire with light pressure.
AR-9 pistol
A loaded semi-automatic AR-9 handgun similar to this one was found behind the wheel of a resident's car (file image)

THUNDER BAY — Thunder Bay Police warn residents to exercise extreme caution if they find any firearm.

The caution comes on the heels of an incident in late May in which a Brodie Street resident discovered a loaded handgun behind the rear wheel of her vehicle.

She retrieved the pistol, initially thinking it was likely a replica gun or toy, but then notified police.

After a responding officer noticed how heavy it was, he checked the chamber and found it was loaded.

It turned out to be a 9 mm semi-automatic weapon.

Staff Sgt. Shawn Harrison says police are still trying to trace the gun's source and owner, but "the likelihood is pretty slim to nil."

The incident occurred the day after three people were charged with drug-related offences following a high-risk arrest by police on May 28. The suspects were in possession of some bullets.

The case started with a report of two men fighting in a Heron Street laneway, one of whom was believed to have a loaded handgun.

The suspects were apprehended soon after in the Tim Horton's drive-thru on May Street.

At around the same time, a loaded firearm was discovered in the 200 block of Rowan Street, and, at some point later, a south-side resident found a handgun outside their home.

In an interview Wednesday, Harrison said police have not established a connection between the two incidents, and noted that there has been an uptick in gun-related cases, going back to last year.

"In the last short time period, 2018 into 2019, we've had an increase in cases dealing with firearms, especially handguns, and I don't think that trend is going to change," he said.

"We're doing our best to tackle those groups in possession of these weapons, and we'll keep trying," Harrison added.

He described the discovery of a loaded handgun on the street as a rare incident in Thunder Bay, but said anyone who finds any firearm should notify police immediately, and refrain from touching it unless absolutely necessary.

"Sometimes these guns are modified, and the trigger pull can be adapted by somebody who has a little bit of knowledge," turning it into a hair-trigger, Harrison said.

"Even a child wouldn't have an issue pulling the trigger," he cautioned.

Harrison said the only rationale for moving a gun before police arrive is "if it's an immediate safety issue."