Man found not guilty in handgun possession case


DOVER — An incoherent man could not be held responsible for the loaded handgun found beside him in a vehicle last year, and he was thus found not guilty of two felony firearms charges against him in a bench trial on Monday.

David Thomas was either “asleep or passed out in the driver’s seat” when located by Delaware State Police troopers early in the morning of July 11, 2016, in Camden-Wyoming. The late-model Chevrolet was stuck near a tree line with its brakes lights on when police were called to the scene, according to the three-page opinion issued by Superior Court Resident Judge William L. Witham Jr.

Police found a .45 caliber handgun with a loaded magazine near Mr. Thomas’ feet, along with seven rounds of ammunition including one in the chamber, police said.

Investigation that followed did not establish that the defendant knowingly possessed or controlled the deadly weapon or ammunition, according to the decision.

While Mr. Thomas was the only person in the car, he was later found not to be the owner. The owner was never contacted or questioned, papers said.

Also, according to Judge Witham, “It appears that no further questioning or follow-up on the defendant driver was conducted.”

There were no DNA results on the firearm, magazine or ammunition, according to documents.

“An unresponsive person, never questioned concerning the weapon, without follow up investigation with respect to the ownership and use of the vehicle is a bridge too far,” Judge Witham said when citing case law.

Still unresponsive, Mr. Thomas was taken from the vehicle and transported to a hospital, “although he was able to mumble words when questioned,” the opinion said.

Mr. Thomas was prohibited from possession of a deadly weapon or firearm ammunition based on his prior record, according to the opinion.

Other items located in the vehicle included alcohol bottles, clothing, boxes, trash bags, trash, a cell phone and a mask with a clear plastic bong attached, according to the opinion.

“A strong odor of burnt marijuana was noted,” according to the judge.

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