Police find match to weapon in homicide

Jan. 11, 2013 @ 06:25 PM

Police are crediting a break in the investigation of December’s killing of the owner of the Kabab & Curry House restaurant to their decision to create an in-house ballistics-testing staff.

Police Chief Jose Lopez and Investigative Services Bureau Assistant Chief Jon Peter reported Friday to the Durham Crime Cabinet that officers had recovered a firearm that matches a bullet and shell casing found at the crime scene.

A Durham Police Department technician identified the match as part of her final certification test. Her instructor, an expert from Atlanta’s crime lab, verified her results, Peter said.

“At this point, it helps us wrap up that investigation and we’re very hopeful that pretty soon we’ll have as much as we will need to bring a case forward against an individual in reference to that,” Lopez added.

Last month’s shooting claimed the life of restaurant owner Mohammed Arfan Sundal, 51. He was found dead behind his Guess Road restaurant late on Dec. 6.

Peter said detectives worked with patrol officers and the department’s Violent Incident Response Team to find the weapon.

He and Lopez also said having the ability to do the ballistics work in-house saved the department months over the time it would have taken to get results from the State Bureau of Investigation’s lab.

The city’s technician established the match about five days after police recovered the weapon, Lopez said.

Testing through the state likely would have required a wait of 12 to 18 months, Peter said.

Police, prosecutors and other players in the criminal justice system have long complained of how long it takes to get results from the SBI lab, which handles evidence from all 100 counties and is backlogged.

The problem has local officials pondering the idea of paying the SBI to hire chemists to work specifically on Durham cases that involve testing of drug and blood evidence.

City officials budgeted money for in-house ballistics work about two years ago, City Manager Tom Bonfield said.

Much of the time since has gone into getting a technician hired and certified. “Things aren’t built in a day,” Peter said.

Friday’s report pleased elected officials, but one said it should also chasten their counterparts with the state.

The backlogs at the SBI are “absurd and should be an embarrassment,” City Councilman Eugene Brown said.