Wake commissioners sign off on firearms lab to ease crime lab backlog

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Wake County commissioners unanimously signed off Monday on a plan to create a county firearms lab.

Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said, in certain cases, it is taking the state crime lab too long.

There is a backlog of firearms forensics cases at the state crime lab.

City County Bureau of Investigation Director Sam Pennica and Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman asked the county commissioners to approve the transfer of $85,000 to help create a county firearms lab.

Freeman told CBS North Carolina one case that concerned her was the officer-involved shooting death of Jaqwan Terry in August 2016.

In that case, she said there was a gun at the scene, but her office did not receive a criminal ballistics report until eights months later in April.

“We can get the answers and the results back to the investigators early on in the investigation,” said Pennica. “Also, we’d be able to get the information that the prosecutors need in cases, for example, of officer-involved shootings.”

CBS North Carolina visited the State Crime Lab earlier this month to get a look at the work done there.

The state has 12 firearms examiners.

Since the beginning of the year, the state said it’s completed 296 cases from Wake County and there are 52 cases from the county left to go.

Statewide, there are a total of 466 cases pending in the state firearms unit.

A Department of Justice spokeswoman said there has been a lot of turnover in the firearms unit in recent years, but said that is stabilizing.

The county is planning to start buying the equipment for the firearms crime lab and two firearms examiners would be hired in January.

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