ATLANTA — The City of Atlanta’s former chief financial officer kept two fully automatic rifles after falsely certifying that he was buying them on behalf of the police department.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports documents show Jim Beard kept the guns at home, even though $2,600 in city money was used in the purchase and civilians aren’t normally allowed to own them.
Attorney Scott Grubman disputes that Beard had personal possession of the guns, saying that “at most” his client signed for their delivery “in his official role” as chief financial officer.
Beard, chief financial officer under Mayor Kasim Reed, filled out a federal application in 2015 and listed an officer on the mayor’s protection unit as a co-purchaser.
The police department did end up with the two AR-15s sometime after Beard left his city job in 2018. A police report says Beard dropped off the guns in a locked hard-shell case and asked officers to secure them while he was “in between houses.”
Details of the purchase are revealed in dozens of pages of documents that the city turned over recently to federal prosecutors investigating corruption in Atlanta government. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution obtained the documents last week.
Federal law normally bars civilians from possessing fully automatic weapons. The guns were officially logged into police custody in March and held in the department’s property room after officers cut the padlocks off the case. A property tag on the gun case lists Beard as the owner. The guns are now in the possession of the FBI, according to a city spokesman.
“I placed 2 AR-15s into property that we were holding for Ex-CFO Jim Beard,” the March 14 police report states. “While Mr. Beard was employed by the city he asked us to secure his weapons because he was in between houses. After Jim separated from the city we contacted him a few times to ask if he could recover his property. He did not recover his property.”
Daniel Defense, a gun manufacturer near Savannah, built the rifles.
A spokesman for Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Thursday that the officer listed as co-purchaser of the weapons told investigators that his name was used on the form “without his knowledge.”
Among the records turned over to prosecutors are ATF forms transferring and registering the rifles, which are categorized as “machine guns.”
Reed didn’t respond Thursday to questions sent to him via text message and email.
Automatic rifles are different than semi-automatics in that they continue firing until the shooter releases the trigger. Sales of new automatic guns are restricted to military, police and licensed dealers.
Matthew Kilgo, an attorney specializing in gun rights, said the purchases would have violated federal law unless Beard held a special license allowing him to sell weapons to law enforcement. It also would be a felony under Georgia law, he said.
“It sounds like he was in the market for a fully automatic weapon and used the city to make the purchase for himself,” Kilgo said after reviewing the documents at the newspaper’s request.
The newspaper previously reported that Beard used his city-issued credit card to pay for a $10,000 hotel stay in Paris, and an $8,000 restaurant bill after a going-away party for Reed and his cabinet.