Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Authorities Search Marsh for Weapon; Looking for Gun Thought Used to Kill Off-Duty Police Officer

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Authorities Search Marsh for Weapon; Looking for Gun Thought Used to Kill Off-Duty Police Officer

Article excerpt

Byline: Teresa Stepzinski, Times-Union staff writer

BRUNSWICK -- Walking shoulder-to-shoulder using machetes, metal detectors and hollow steel sounding poles to probe the mud, authorities yesterday searched dense underbrush and salt marsh for the handgun they think was used to kill Brunswick police Officer Melvin Collins.

Collins, 31, was fatally shot Friday night while trying to stop an armed robbery of the Friendly Express store on U.S. 17, where he had been working off-duty as a clerk, Glynn County police have said.

Two Brunswick men, Daniel Brown and Taurean Hardy, both 20, have been charged with murder in the case and are being held without bail at the Glynn County Detention Center.

Police have been searching since the night of the shooting for a black .25-caliber semiautomatic pistol they think was used to kill Collins, said Sgt. Kevin Jones, spokesman for the Brunswick Police Department.

Yesterday, an estimated 100 Glynn County and Brunswick police officers, along with members of the Glynn County Volunteer Search and Recovery Squad, painstakingly combed the area near the store.

They were assisted by police dogs trained to sniff out firearms from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and Chatham County Sheriff's Office.

The searchers crawled on their hands and knees through thick underbrush and waded in the marsh and in a creek. They had to contend with the heat, poisonous water moccasins and clouds of mosquitos and sand gnats.

"The search will continue [today] if we don't find the gun by nightfall," Glynn police Sgt. Cathy Varnedoe said. "We're going to do everything we can to find it."

Collins is survived by a wife and two daughters. Felicia Collins issued a written statement thanking her slain husband's colleagues and the community for their outpouring of support to their family.

"The tragic events of this past week have devastated my family and [me] beyond words. Melvin's enthusiasm and dedication to serve and protect went far beyond just going to work everyday. …

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