In honor of our 35th year, one
of our Founding Fathers, Stanton O. Berg, has
written an extensive history of the early days before the
formation of AFTE and the “early years”, to provide our
members with a treatise of our birth and development. He
highlights biographical information of the other Founding
Fathers and significant events throughout our history. The
value of this work cannot be measured because all of our
early historical documents have been lost. Be sure to give
Stan a call or drop him a note to thank him for this
REMINISCENCES OF THE PRE
AND EARLY AFTE YEARS
Forensic Firearms Consultant
6025 Gardena Lane, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55432
The purpose of this reminiscing and perhaps a
little rambling historical review is to cover the period of time
roughly from the early 1960’s through the mid 1970’s. It also
permits me to vent my wistful musings, which at times threaten
to engulf my mind in waves of nostalgia. I hope this story will
also serve to remember and bring to mind many individuals who
are no longer with us but at one time figured prominently in
AFTE history. I am sure that some readers will feel that I
neglected certain people or spent too much time with certain
others. This is however, my recollection, bolstered by my notes
and personal files. I am also including selected input from
other AFTE “old fogy’s” like myself. We will take a
special look at the “Original AFTE 36”and where
they are today. Again it is a look at that
range of years that is rapidly disappearing from our memories
and into the mists of time. As a poet once said: “Time
dissipates into shining ether, the solid angularity of facts.”
This is neither a complete and certainly not a modern history of
AFTE. We “old Coot’s” tend to look at this period of time
as the “good ole days.” In many ways they
were and in others they were not. With that said, on with the
The birthplace of the Association of Firearm and
Tool Mark Examiners (AFTE) in 1969 was Chicago, Illinois.
If AFTE could be said to have parents, they would surely
be two great organizations. One would be the American Academy
of Forensic Science (AAFS) and the other would be the
Chicago Police Department. Both organizations played
important and key roles in setting the stage for the later birth
American Academy of
In the several years immediately preceding the
formation of AFTE, it was traditional for the American
Academy of Forensic Sciences to hold their annual February
conferences at the Drake Hotel in Chicago. Two sections
of the Academy (Criminalistics and Pathology) had programs and
papers that were of interest to forensic firearms people. A
number of firearms people (myself included) belonged to and were
members of the Criminalistics Section of the Academy. Many other
non-members, who were interested forensic firearms people,
attended the Academy meetings to hear some of the latest papers
on forensic firearms and related matters. A dedicated group of
firearms people would usually get together on their own in the
evenings for further “one on one” and small group discussion.
Such discussion would frequently end in the early morning hours.
Walter Howe would usually make his suite at the Drake
available and act as the host for those evening meetings.
Walter always arranged to have a generous supply of liquid
refreshments and room service snacks. It was during such evening
gatherings that the idea for an organization dedicated wholly to
the needs and interests of firearms and tool mark people
originated. It can be said that the American Academy of
Forensic Science Conferences was the mechanism that brought
together at one location, interested forensic firearms people
from all across the U.S. and Canada and who later gave birth to
The Drake Hotel
The Drake Hotel in Chicago is one of the
old deluxe historical hotels that first opened it’s doors in
1920.It is a 10 story hotel with over 500 rooms located on
Michigan Avenue overlooking Lake Michigan. It had both simple
and very deluxe accommodations. One of the Drake’s three
restaurants featured game animals and game birds on the menu. I
used to joke about dining in a restaurant where one could order
Pheasant under glass. Well, this was such a place. I remember my
typical room in the mid 1960’s (AAFS Conference rates)
was one of the budget single rooms with little more than space
to turn around in. Such rooms were a far cry from the
accommodations that I later had in June of 1978. At that time I
was a guest lecturer at Northwestern University Law School.
The University had an agreement with the Drake to provide
lodging for their guest lecturers. Apparently the agreement
called for a room with a lakeside view. The Drake was out
of such rooms when I arrived, so in order to comply with the
lakeside view requirement they put me up in a suite that had
such a view. It was the biggest suite I have ever seen. The
suite was complete with statues, paintings and other artwork.
Needless to say, I was impressed.
Chicago Police Department
The Chicago Police Department and
particularly the Firearms Laboratory also played a very
important and a key role in the formation of AFTE. The
1969 AFTE organizational meeting of interested forensic
firearms people took place at the facilities of the Chicago
Police Department. The meeting was again coincidental to the
AAFS February Conference. The Chicago Police Department
also later hosted the second annual conference of the newly
organized AFTE organization. The Chicago Police
Department Firearms Section has always served as a willing
and friendly host to visiting firearms people during the AAFS
conferences. For anyone interested in visiting their laboratory,
there was always a friendly firearms person from the Chicago
PD laboratory willing to provide transportation from the
Drake Hotel and back. During the early years leading up to
AFTE’s birth, personnel from the Chicago Crime
Laboratory served as key people at the evening get-togethers
in the Drake Hotel. They have always provided an input of
their experiences and perspectives that were valuable to the
other members of the group.
In particular for that general time period I
remember: Bob Boese, Joe Celovsky, Richard
Chenow, Jim Gainer, Don Gunnell, Vince
Lomoro, Burt Nielson, Art Paholke, John
Sadunas, John Sojat, Don Smith, Bob Smith,
John Stauffer, Reg Templin and Ernie Warner.
Bob Boese who had additional expertise in Chemistry was
later transferred to that section.
I looked at John Sojat and John
Stauffer (who were older members of the lab.) as sort of the
lab’s fatherly figures. Both had distinguished themselves by
earlier research and the publication of “A Study of Class
Characteristics of Autoloading Weapons”. (October 1958, Journal
of Forensic Sciences) Both have other publications. John
Stauffer is considered by many to have been the principle
driving force behind the first Chicago meeting of AFTE.
If any individual could be said to be the father of AFTE,
it is probably John Stauffer.
Jim Gainer on the other
hand was one of the “Young Turks” of the Chicago group. Jim
advised me that he was usually the one sent to replenish the
liquid refreshments during the evening Drake Hotel room
meetings. Walter Howe is said to have instructed him –
“Here is $20 kid and I want my change back and make sure it is a
decent Scotch.” Jim recently commented to me about his –
“great, great memories. I miss the guys and the satisfaction of
doing firearms identification the old fashion way. And I mean
the old fashion way. Bob Smith and I were the last to be
trained on the monocular AO scopes used in the early days
of firearms ID. After we proved ourselves on those scopes
Stauffer, Sadunas and the other “old “ guys would let
us use the new AO binocular scopes. Those old AO and
Spencer monocular scopes would give you headaches…after about
three hours using one eye trying to make ID’s on some of the .22
fired bullets they would give us as tests to see if we could
make it as firearms examiners. What a great time!! ” I remember
having a discussion with Jim back in 1980. According to
my notes, Jim advised me that when he first came to the
Chicago Crime Laboratory in 1967 their caseload was 5,400
gun cases a year. He also indicated that the size of their staff
when he started was 10 examiners. In 1980 the staff was still 10
examiners but the caseload was expected to go over 20,000 that
year. As a result, only limited processing of each case was
possible. They no longer were able to check all incoming guns
against their unsolved bullet case file without a specific
request to do so.
I must admit that I have
always had a special fondness for the Chicago Crime
Laboratory. This fondness was both an admiration of their
history as well as a respect for their staff and their work
product. The department is steeped in historical romance and
drama. I have enjoyed a good relationship with them over the
many years of our association. It is this relationship that I am
sure was responsible for my being selected by the Corporation
Counsel’s Office of the City of Chicago as the
outside expert and examiner in certain lawsuits brought against
the City of Chicago in cases involving firearms.
Two of the most publicized
and the most controversial cases were the following.
Iberia Hampton et. al. v. City of Chicago
This was a Civil litigation (1975) case for the
Deaths of Black Panther leaders Fred Hampton,
Mark Clark with injuries to 4 others resulting from a
pre-dawn police raid on a Black Panther apartment flat on
4 December 1969. (Nine (9) people were in the apartment.)
Fourteen (14) Chicago Police Officers assigned to the
Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office were executing a
search warrant for illegal weapons. It is recorded that the
police did in fact find and seize from the apartment one illegal
sawed off shotgun, one stolen police weapon and some seventeen
other weapons, which had not been registered. This lawsuit
involved the Chicago Police Crime Laboratory, as a party
defendant in the action as well as the City of Chicago.
There was an allegation of a conspiracy to deprive the
plaintiffs of their civil rights. The plaintiffs alleged that a
misidentification of certain shotshells (same make and model
gun) indicated a Crime Laboratory conspiracy. I examined
the questioned evidence in behalf of the Crime Laboratory.
My examinations were made using the Chicago Crime Laboratory
facilities. I remember working into the evening hours and
Dick Chenow assisting me with the photography of some of my
comparison microscope exhibits. Don Smith also assisted
me with some of the “grunt” work. At my request he was kind
enough to disassemble some of the laboratory reference shotguns
in order that I might photograph representative shotgun breech
faces/bolts as jury exhibits. It was not my objective to dispute
the misidentification but rather to show the jury that there
were similarities that could result in a close question for the
examiner. That this was an error not a conspiracy. The
plaintiffs retained Herbert L. MacDonell for an on scene
reconstruction analysis. The suit was eventually (6/21/1977)
dismissed and declared a mistrial after a jury could not reach a
verdict. The dismissal climaxed an 18-month trial in U. S.
District Court. I was not required to testify inasmuch as
the Judge (Sam Perry) had early on dismissed the Crime
Laboratory from the suit based on his finding of no evidence
of conspiracy on their part. It should be noted that in this
case, the firearms examiner involved in the questionable
identification, John Sadunas was literally inundated with
evidence the morning after the raid. The final total evidence
tally in this controversy consisted of forty-six firearms with
230 bullets, fired cases, shotshell wads and pellets. As might
be expected, Sadunas reported much pressure from the
States Attorney’s Office for an early report.
Note: Herbert L. MacDonell was an early AFTE
participant. He was not at the February 1969 meeting however the
Roster of Participants in AFTE Newsletter No. 1 indicates
his was one of the roster sheets received by May 5, 1969. He
apparently never progressed beyond the Participant stage. He did
not appear on the AFTE Membership listing for 1970-1971.
His initial listing indicates that he was a Deputy, Steuben Co.
Sheriff’s Dept., Bath, N.Y. Apparently he later submitted a new
application. The AFTE Journal for April 1973 lists
Herbert L. MacDonell of Corning, New York as an applicant
for membership. It is noted that he appeared on the last
published 1998 AFTE Roster as Provisional member No. 1622
with the Laboratory of Forensic Science, Corning, NY address. He
is no longer listed in any membership capacity. If a provisional
member does not apply for regular membership within the required
time limit, he or she is dropped from membership.
The second case was also a case of civil
litigation directed against the City of Chicago.
Curtis Jefro et al. v. City
This case involved the death of a small boy
resulting from gunfire in the Chicago riots following the
Martin Luther King Assassination in April of 1968. A
full-scale civil disorder had developed in the aftermath of the
assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National
Guardsman and Chicago Police Officers were all on the scene. As
a part of the disturbance it was alleged that rioter snipers
were firing in the area. The victim was on a 12th
floor balcony porch of a 15-story high-rise apartment building.
The Jefro case revolved about the questionable origin of
the fatal bullet fragment. Was it a police bullet or did it have
other origin? In my opinion it was not a police bullet. This
case was eventually tried to a Chicago Jury. I appeared
in behalf of the defendant, the City of Chicago. Joseph D.
Nicol appeared in behalf of the plaintiff. Robert J.
Smith of the Chicago Crime Laboratory initially examined the
fragment. The jury rendered a defense verdict in behalf of the
City of Chicago.
While both cases were controversial ones, the
Hampton case was embroiled in controversy from the very
start. A Coroner’s Inquest was held shortly after the
raid. The raid was further investigated by the Cook County
Grand Jury, which resulted in some Panther member
indictments. (Later dismissed.) The case was later investigated
by a Federal Grand Jury, which returned no criminal
indictments. In addition to the lawsuit described above, the
case eventually involved additional (1976) Federal lawsuits by
the Panthers against the FBI, CIA and
IRS for violation of their civil rights. A Congressional
House Panel was even requested to probe the Panther
of the Period
This was also the time period in which
Charles M. “Charlie” Wilson was the head of the
Wisconsin Crime Laboratory at Madison. Charlie was
one of AFTE’s original founding participants, and served
as our first Treasurer. His history is very impressive. He was
born in Washington D.C but grew up in California. He attended
the university of California. In 1930 he joined the staff of the
new Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory at Northwestern
University in Chicago. In 1938 when the Crime Laboratory was
transferred to the Chicago Police Department, Wilson also
transferred. He was the Director of the Laboratory while at the
Chicago Police Department. In 1947 he resigned from the Chicago
Police Laboratory to accept the job of establishing a new
Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory. He was apparently a very tough
taskmaster to the employee’s who worked under him. A few of our
early members were either working for Wilson or had done
so in the past. Many of the evening sessions in the Drake
Hotel were replete with interesting and sometimes amusing
anecdotes about Charlie Wilson and his management style.
Some of our Charlie Wilson graduate members would include
Al Biasotti, Cleon “Red” Mauer, Joe Wilimovsky
and Al Wilimovsky. Red Mauer recalled an amusing
incident that took place at the time he was working for
Wilson. Apparently Charlie was late for a flight to a
California appointment and simply abandoned his car at the
airport terminal building with no keys in the car. Wilson
later called the lab with instructions for them to move the car
to a more legitimate parking place. Red recalled hearing
the secretary comment “Just fine Mr.
Wilson, your not here.” Al Wilimovsky got the
assignment to hot wire the car in order to get it started so
that it could be moved. The Milwaukee Journal for
Thursday April 17, 1969 contained an article – “Crime Lab
Director to Step Down July 2.” The article starts out describing
Wilson as the “controversial head of the Wisconsin State
Crime Laboratory”. He was both praised and criticized. A quote
by Attorney General Robert W. Warren describes Charlie
“as Wisconsin’s pioneer in this field, you have had a unique
role in creating and developing one of the country’s foremost
facilities for scientific analysis of physical evidence.” The
paper described Wilson as one “who has frequently clashed
with local law enforcement officers during his 22 years
(1947-1969) as state crime laboratory director.”
Cleon “Red” Mauer advised me that he missed the first
AFTE meeting because “someone had to mind the store” and
that he was “low man on the totem pole.”
Burton D. Munhall
- It would be misleading to say that the early year evening get
together were all work and no play. Chicago certainly offered
many interesting nightspots, restaurants, bars and social venues
for visitors. Many of our firearms people can be said to both
work hard and play hard. During this early time period, the
Playboy Club building and the Playboy Club were both
located just across the street from the Drake Hotel.
Burt Munhall who was at that time the Manager of the H.
P. White Laboratory (Ballistics Engineering Laboratory) was
also the holder of a Playboy Club Card/Key. Admission to the
Club was restricted to Club members and their guests. Burt
was also a very social person and seemed to be a friend to
everyone. Burt would have made a great politician.
Burt and his Playboy card/key provided a means of admission
to the Playboy Club for an evening’s entertainment for
any of his invited friends. I was happy to be counted as one of
his friends. All meals and beverages had to be charged to a
member’s card. There were no cash transactions. At the end of
the evening everyone would pay Burt for their share of
the bill. After a year or two, Burt had to give up his
Club Card, as apparently Mr. H. P. White did not think
that a Playboy Club Card was in keeping with their general
business posture. That also ended forever, my and everyone
else’s Playboy Club days. Burt was one of the
original-founding members of AFTE. He was very active in
the association during the early days both in attendance at the
annual conferences as well as presentation of papers. Burt
was instrumental in my joining the AAFS and served as one
of my sponsors in 1964. He had previously sponsored Walter
Howe in 1962. In 1965 Burt left the H. P. White
Laboratory to take a position with the Federal Cartridge
Company in Minneapolis and Anoka, MN. I remember our family
socialized with Burt and his wife Grace during those
early years. In 1977 he retired from Federal Cartridge Co.
intending to make his retirement home in Hendersonville, NC. The
untimely death of his wife Grace followed almost
immediately after his retirement from Federal. Shortly
thereafter, much as MacArthur’s “old Soldier” he just
“faded away.” The AFTE Journal (Spring 1998) published a
short eulogy about his death in March of 1997.
Shane J. “Rip”
Kirby. For many of the conference
attendees, this was also their vacation time. Many made the most
of it especially during the evenings. Memories of Shane J.
“Rip” Kirby who was then the Head of the Firearms Section,
RCMP, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada are legion. He was
both admired for his abilities as a firearms examiner as well as
his abilities to play hard. He was certainly a colorful
personality. It was rumored that he got the nickname of “Rip”
following an evening of Chicago partying and then going to bed
with his boots and spurs on. “Rip” had reference to the
effect of his spurs on the bed sheets. Charlie Meyers has
referred to “Rip” as the “Mad Mountie.” Shane
was an avid goose and duck hunter. During one of his goose
hunting expeditions and some partying he suffered a broken leg
when he fell into one of the goose pits. It was a bad break that
resulted in his hobbling about the office-laboratory for some
time before it healed properly. He retired from the Firearms
Section of the Regina RCMP Laboratory in 1981. He retired
as a staff sergeant in charge of the firearms section.
Vaclav “Jack” Krcma.
Canada has produced a number of colorful characters and
Vaclav “Jack” Krcma was also certainly one of them. I first
became acquainted with him in 1961. At that time he was a
firearms examiner in the Firearms Section of the Attorney
General’s Laboratory, Toronto, Ontario. Later Jack (Ca.
1969) became the head of the Ballistics Section of the
Laboratory of Legal Medicine and Police Science in Montreal. .I
remember Walter Howe commenting that he (Walter)
ran a disciplined operation at NRA headquarters but most of that
disciplined atmosphere went out the window when Jack was
visiting. Jack was also a very prolific writer with many
publications to his credit. He later became one of the original
Chicago 36 who attended the first AFTE
inauguration meeting in 1969. Walter Howe’s memo to the
John Stauffer (Secretary) and Charlie Wilson
(Treasurer) dated 4 April 1969 has the following comment. “I
talked to Krcma and he will handle a few German
publications.” (A reader reporter reference.) Thereafter his
association with AFTE was short lived and like his friend
Burt Munhall, just faded away. I last heard from him in
1984. At that time he was a private consultant living in
Robert “Bob” Charles
Nichol. The Canadian
contingent as already noted was clearly a memorable group.
Robert “Bob” Charles Nichol of the Center of Forensic
Sciences in Toronto was a very personable and friendly member of
this assembly. He would chidingly refer to his brothers in the
RCMP as the “Government Cowboys.” In the early days it
was not possible to fly from his laboratory in Toronto to
certain destinations on the far West side of the large Province
of Ontario without first flying to the U.S. for a connecting
flight. I recall Bob having a trial in Fort Francis that
required his coming to Minneapolis first for a layover. From
Minneapolis he could get a connecting flight to International
Falls and Fort Francis. He called me and I met his flight at the
Minneapolis airport. He came in on what was then called the old
North Central (Flying Goose) Airlines. We had a few hours
of drinks and pleasant conversation before he continued on to
his trial. Bob an avid fisherman, enjoyed these trials in
the remote areas of the Province as he would frequently be able
to work in some fishing. Finn Nielsen advised me that -
“Nichol took part in the ammunition testing which
resulted in the .38 Special + P ammo being adopted by most of
our Police departments when they were still using revolvers. He
also did a great deal of work with body armor, and he is
probably one of the many unknown people who are responsible for
officers not dying because they wore the armor he did so much
work on.” Bob became the second AFTE Secretary in
1970. I recall Bob advising me at the 1970 conference
that he was already working on a presentation for the following
years conference at Phoenix. The title he jokingly informed me
was “Going to Phoenix.” The implication apparently was that his
boss was more likely to approve his travel funds if he was on
the Program. It appears that his boss decided to send him
because of his position as an officer in the association. He was
listed as an attendee at the conference but was not on the
program. Bob was later Co-Program Chairman with Edward
Anderson for the Toronto AFTE Meeting in 1976.
Dr. J. Howard Mathews.
The Pre and early AFTE days were also the times of Dr.
J. Howard Mathews of Madison, Wisconsin. As most of you
will recognize, this was the gentleman that produced the massive
two volumes and later three volumes works “Firearms
Identification”. He was also one of AFTE’s original
Chicago 36. It was my honor and privilege to have been
one of his friends. My first contact with Dr. Mathews was
by way of a letter in January of 1957. That letter resulted in a
steady stream of correspondence up until his death in April of
1970. The letters I have since bound into a 1.5” binder. For
several years thereafter I continued correspondence with his
daughter Jean Watson. Dr. Mathews graciously and
meticulously answered all my letters in great detail. Following
an invitation, my wife June and I visited Dr. Mathews
in his laboratory at the University of Wisconsin in August of
1960. Although Dr. Mathews was retired from the
University, (Professor Emeritus) they provided him with
sufficient space in the Chemistry building for his office and
laboratory. Dr. Mathews was a gracious host, and spent
whatever time was necessary to explain the operation of his
specially designed equipment. (Comparison camera, rifling meter,
stereomicroscope set up for measuring rifling, etc.) He was at
that time totally immersed in making his firearm rifling
measurements and related tabulations for the first edition of
his book. Shortly after our visit, I purchased a cutaway Colt
Government Model pistol from Dr. Mathews for $15. He
had previously used the cutaway for courtroom demonstrations. At
the time I acquired the pistol, I failed to realize what a
bargain it was. Dr. Mathews was not above poking fun at
himself. I recall pointing out an error he had made in a model
designation. He wrote back to me with the following comment.
“You are quite right about the Savage Mod. 298. There “aint no
such animal.” But there is a careless fellow (J.H.M.) in my lab.
Who made a typographical error or such…” The University of
Wisconsin eventually published the first edition of his two
volume works “Firearms Identification” in 1962. Volume I
has 400 pages. Volume II has another 492 pages. I am fortunate
to have received an autographed copy of the first edition. In
addition a personally autographed picture of Dr. Mathews
holding a revolver accompanied it. Volume III (730 pages) was
published posthumously by Charles C. Thomas in 1973
following Dr. Mathew’s death. The Volume III publication
was made possible by the editorial assistance of Allan E.
Wilimovsky. I was pleased to be honored by Dr. Mathews
on an acknowledgment page where he referenced the “hundreds of
fired rim-fire cases” I had provided to him for photography and
inclusion in volume III. Prior to his retirement he was the
Chairman of the Department of Chemistry at the University where
he also served as Professor of Chemistry. He had previously
served as an Officer in the Ordnance Department of the Army in
WWI. He died at the age of 88. He was a person for whom the term
“gentleman” was a perfect fit in every way.
Joseph C. ”Joe” Wilimovsky Jr.
was another interesting character of the pre and early AFTE
times. Allan Wilimovsky was Joe’s bother. It is
said that Joseph Wilimovsky Jr. and John C. Stauffer
started agitating for an AFTE like organization during
the informal evening meetings at the Drake (AAFS
Conferences) up to 12 years before AFTE was formed. He
was noted for being one of the more vocal and provocative
members of this informal group. His friends referred to him
affectionately as “Brother Joe.” He began his career with
the Cook County Illinois Coroners Office in the late
1920’s. He was said to have been called on to assist Calvin
Goddard with his investigation of the notorious St.
Valentines Day Massacre in 1929. It was also said that when
Goddard left the Crime Laboratory at Northwestern
University he left all the firearms cases in Cook County in
Joe’s competent hands. It was in 1946 that I graduated
from Rice Lake High School in Rice Lake, WI. As I
pondered my future education and training and being interested
in “forensic ballistics”, I decided to go straight to the
“horses mouth.” I wrote a letter to Lt. Col. Calvin Goddard
at the Army War College in Washington, D.C. Goddard
was kind enough to respond to my letter with a reference to
Joe Wilimovsky Jr. His letter to me dated 29 November 1946
contained the following suggestion – “Since you live in
Wisconsin, I suggest that you get in touch with my friend and
former assistant, Major J. C. Wilimovsky, Jr. of 1514
West 18th Place, Chicago 8, Illinois. He is newly out
of the army, and so far as I know, still in Chicago. He has been
doing criminal identification work ever since I left Chicago
(1935) while I have done none since that time and am far from
up-to-date on the subject. He will know the answers to your
questions and will be glad to help you, I am sure.”
Unfortunately for me, I did not follow up on this suggested
career lead. At the time AFTE was formed in 1969,
Joseph Wilimovsky was working with the Wisconsin
Department of Justice in Madison. Unfortunately Joseph
Wilimovsky never made the transition from early participant
to a regular member of AFTE. John. Stauffer and
Don. Smith provided the answer to what happened. “Loss of a
postal money order and stubbornness (a Wilimovsky trait)
on Joe’s part prevented his becoming a regular member of
AFTE.” He passed away in July 1976 as a victim of a form
The First AFTE Conference
The morning of 26 February 1969 dawned with
bright expectations as 36 invited participants (“The Chicago
36”) journeyed to Conference Room 514 in the Chicago Police
Department. The meeting was set to start at 10:30 in the
morning. The purpose of this meeting was set forth in the
program agenda as follows: “This meeting is being held to
determine the advisability of forming an organization of
Firearms and Tool Mark Examiners. It is hoped that the
organization will consider future meetings that could be devoted
to the presentation of scientific and technical papers,
description of new techniques and procedures, review of
instrumentation and the solution of common problems encountered
in these scientific fields.”
The number of invited participants that actually
arrived at the Chicago PD for the meeting that day (“The
Chicago 36”) consisted of the following (Arranged
I had expected to leave on an early morning
flight to Chicago that day in order it arrive in time for the
opening of the meeting. Unfortunately for me, it was snowing
heavily in Minneapolis that morning and my flight was delayed. I
finally arrived in Chicago around noon. I checked into the
Drake Hotel as soon as possible. The Drake was again
the site of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences
conference being held in conjunction with but separately from
the AFTE meeting. Bob Boese was kind enough to
quickly pick me up at the hotel and shuttle me to the conference
site. I did not arrive until the afternoon break period so I
missed the morning business part of the program and most of the
formal program for the day. I was however, able to participate
in late afternoon activities and the usual evening sessions.
Shane Kirby of the RCMP in Regina also arrived late,
apparently held up by the same weather system that delayed me.
A short article prepared by Burton D. Munhall
and published in AFTE Newsletter No. 1 (May 15, 1969)
clearly lays out the results of that first meeting. “At that
time it was agreed to form an independent technical group under
the title of “Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners”.
A slate of officers was elected for one year, with Walter J.
Howe (Private Consultant), President; John C Stauffer
(Chicago Police Crime Laboratory), Secretary; and Charles M.
Wilson (Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory,), Treasurer. It
was further agreed that all those in attendance, as well as
others who would ‘join’ in the coming months, would be
designated as participants, pending the recommendations (and
attending participant approval) of a membership committee.
Warren Johnson, Federal Bureau of Investigation; J. D.
Nicol, University of Illinois; and John Sojat,
Private Consultant, were designated as membership Committee
Captain D. J. Purtell,
long active in the American Society of Questioned Document
Examiners, accepted a special appointment from the officers to
draw a Code of Ethics. When the Code of Ethics and the sections
dealing with Membership are ready, the officers will submit
these, along with other pertinent sections (based on the QD
Society Constitution), for review, comment and recommendations.
After receiving such comments and recommendations, a proposed
final draft of the Constitution will be submitted to a special
Committee (to be named by the officers at that time) that will
prepare a final draft to be considered and voted on by the
attending participants as the Association’s annual meeting in
Chicago in February 1970. An assessment of fifteen dollars
($15.00) will be levied on each participant for the first year.”
The selection of Walter J. Howe as the
first president of the newly formed AFTE was a natural
and a very wise move on the part of the new organization.
Walter who had previously been the Editor of the NRA’s
“American Rifleman Magazine,” was noted for his
organizational abilities. The astuteness of this move became
readily apparent at an early date as Walter quickly and
efficiently took over the management of the fledgling
organization. He also voluntarily assumed the duties of the
editor of the “Newsletter.”
As a part of Walter’s function as the
“editor” he set up “a Reader-Reporter (RR) arrangement to
monitor periodicals and books that deal with firearms,
ammunition and related subject matter.” In this regard Walter
made a number of Reader-Reporter assignments in the first
“Newsletter”. “Beginning with the May issue, The American
Rifleman will be handled by M. D. Waite,…A. Paholke
has the RR assignment for monitoring all tool mark literature
until the President hears from other tool mark men as to what
they might handle….each participant should be alert to the
“gems” and advise Stan Berg, 6025 Gardena Lane NE,
Minneapolis, MN 55421, who is the participant charged with
compiling a “Review of Commercial Literature” each month.”
Walter then asked for volunteers to handle other RR
assignments in the future.
Walter noted that (in
less than 3 months) by the time of the first Newsletter on 15
May 1969, the 36 original participants had grown
to a total of 91 participants.
Notice to the American
Academy of Forensic Sciences
Walter J. Howe
published the following information in regard to the AAFS.
“At their second business meeting in Chicago, the charter
participants in AFTE recommended to the officers that
official notice be given to the AAFS relative to the
formation of this new association of firearm and tool mark
examiners. Through the good offices of Charlie Wilson and
Robert J. Joling (member, Executive Comm., AAFS)
arrangements were made for Walter J. Howe to appear
before the Executive Boards of AAFS on Saturday, March 1st,
1969. The Executive Board was most interested in learning of the
reasons for formation of the new association, and members
Joling and Tuchler, as well as AAFS President
Jim Osterberg, asked questions that further enabled
Howe to emphasize that AFTE was by no means a
break-away group…Rather, that most of the charter participants
at the formation conference were not AAFS members. And,
further, that the variety of subject matter which had to be
dealt with in the AAFS Journal understandably did not
permit the depth of coverage on firearms and tool marks that
these subjects must now have. The brief presentation and
discussion concluded with all hands fully aware pf the good
intent of AFTE, and with the promise that AAFS
would be kept fully posted by the very direct means of sending a
copy of each issue of the AFTE Newsletter to President
This was the first step in what was to later
become an eventual total separation from the AAFS.
Soviet-American Symposium in Forensic
Science – October 3-17, 1969.
Later in the year of AFTE’s formation, my
wife June and I had the opportunity to attend a
very unique Symposium to be held in the Soviet Union.
This was a special adventure for us, as it took place at the
height of the “Cold War”. The first meetings were to be held in
Moscow with later meetings in Leningrad.
(Leningrad is now St. Petersburg.) This first ever meeting of
American and Soviet Forensic Scientists was organized and
sponsored by three prominent and world recognized Forensic
Pathologists. They were Dr. William G. Eckert, Dr.
Cyril H. Wecht and Dr. Thomas T. Noguchi. They were
all members of the AAFS. Dr. Noguchi has been
referred to as the “Coroner to the Stars.” During his tenure as
the Deputy Medical Examiner and later Chief Medical Examiner of
Los Angeles County, he was responsible for the autopsies on
Marilyn Monroe, Robert F. Kennedy, Sharon Tate,
Janis Joplin, William Holden, Natalie Wood
and John Belushi. Dr. Eckert was Editor of
INFORM (International Reference Publication in the Forensic
Sciences) and Director of the Laboratories at St. Francis
Hospital in Wichita. He would later become the President of the
(IAFS) International Association of Forensic Sciences.
Dr. Wecht was Director of the Institute of Forensic
Sciences in Pittsburgh and later a President of the AAFS.
Visits were arranged for me to meet and have conferences with
Boris J. Shevchenko who was professor of Criminalistics at
Moscow University with a specialty in firearms
identification or “ballistics” as they called it. The Professor
indicated that there were three ballistics laboratories in the
Moscow at the time. One Laboratory was in the Moscow
University, one in the Institute of Criminalistics
and the third one in the Militia or Police Department.
Only one expert would appear at a trial. The Ministry of
Justice provided all testimony. There was no such thing as
an expert for the defense. The professor would be called in on
special cases. He indicated that all Moscow ballistics experts
are selected from graduates in technology at Moscow
University. The Professor seemed very knowledgeable about
American firearms identification practices and procedures.
I also had visits with Vladimir Nicholaichik who
was Professor of Criminal Law at Moscow University. The
results of the Soviet Conferences were reported at length in the
October 1971 issue of “Identification” under the title of
“Firearms Identification in the Soviet Union.” The
American Rifleman Magazine for April 1970 reported on my
visit to a Russian Gun Shop. I also provided a detailed slide
presentation describing the Russian Conferences at the 3rd
AFTE Conference in Phoenix in 1971. But alas, fame is
fleeting. In 20 years all was forgotten about my adventures in
Russia. In the 1991 AFTE Conference at Houston, Lucien
“Luke” C. Haag presented a paper in which he described a
trip he had made in July of 1990 to the Soviet Union.
Much to my surprise, he indicated that his trip resulted in the
first such exchange with Soviet Criminalist's and
Firearms Examiners. Obviously Luke was totally unaware of
my trip to the Soviet Union 20 years before. I could not
resist a later temptation to rib Luke from the podium and
suggest that in 20 years everyone would probably forget about
his trip also.
The 2nd AFTE 1970 Chicago
The second conference
again took place at the Chicago Police Department on
24 and 25 February 1970. The printed Agenda has an opening
statement that reads – “One year has passed since a meeting was
held to determine the advisability of forming an organization of
Firearm & Tool Mark Examiners. We are meeting today to evaluate
the Association, and if warranted, to set guide lines for its
future.” The conference was also timed to coincide with but
immediately precede the meeting of the AAFS then taking
place at the Drake Hotel. This permitted the AAFS members
such as Howe, Meyers, Munhall, others, and
myself, the option of also attending both the AFTE
Conference as well as the AAFS conference.
Burton D. Munhall
served as the Program Chairman for this conference.
The opening Welcome was by Pierce J. Fleming,
Deputy Superintendent of the Chicago Police Bureau of Staff
Services. This was followed by an Introduction by Chicago Police
Crime Laboratory Director, Captain D. J. Purtell.
This conference had a total attendance of
88 participants. That represented a remarkable increase
in attendance for a new organization in only one year.
The morning session was a business meeting.
While the first 1969
conference resulted in the election of a skeleton staff of
officers (President, Treasurer and Secretary) to run the new
organization, the second 1970 conference elected a full slate of
Charles R. Meyers of
the Michigan State Police was elected as the new President to
replace Walter J. Howe. Edward G. Bigler of the
Florida Department of Law Enforcement was elected to the new
position of Vice President. Robert G. Nichol of the
Center of Forensic Sciences in Toronto replaced John C.
Stauffer as the Secretary. Robert J. Smith of the
Chicago Police Department replaced Charles M. Wilson as
A new three man Executive Committee was set up.
Elected were Stanton O. Berg from Minneapolis and
DeWayne A. Wolfer from the Los Angeles Police Criminalistics
Laboratory. Walter J. Howe as the outgoing President
automatically became a member of this Committee It was my honor
to be elected to serve on this first Executive Committee.
The original Membership Committee was replaced
with a Board of Admissions. Elected to the new Board of
Admissions were Arthur J. Paholke of The Chicago Police
Laboratory, John G. Sojat from Clifton Hill, Missouri and
Allan E.Wilimovsky Sr. from the Wisconsin State Crime
Walter J. Howe had been
handling both the duties of President and the Editor. The duties
of an Editor were obviously too demanding to be handled in
addition to Presidential duties. Steve Molnar Jr. of the
Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation was
elected to assume the Editor’s duties. Steve served in
this position until 1972 when James E. Hamby became the
Editor. Steve was always a frequent contributor to the
AFTE Newsletter and later the AFTE Journal.
This conference also adopted a new or the
first AFTE Constitution and Bylaws.
The next day and half
consisted of a series of technical papers.
The program Chairman appointed for the following
year was DeWayne A. Wolfer of the Los Angeles PD.
By the time of the 2d AFTE Conference in
February of 1970, there were a total of 175 AFTE Participants
who had paid their assessment for the previous year. This
represented almost a skyrocketing of membership in just one
year. Thereafter the membership would taper off to a more
gradual but consistent yearly growth.
This initial group of 175 first year
Participants were quite a powerful dynamic group. They
provided a basic core of members who served as the backbone of
AFTE for many years thereafter. They were frequent
contributors to the AFTE Journal and appeared frequently
as AFTE Conference speakers. This initial group produced
17 AFTE Presidents. In fact, the first 12 AFTE
Presidents (1969-1981) were all from this group. The
following list of Presidents came from this initial group.
(Arranged alphabetically) Edward J. Anderson (1977-78),
Edward G. Bigler (1971-72), John Cayton (1986-87),
Donald E. Champagne (1978-79), Patrick V. Garland
(1973-74), Walter J. Howe (1969-70), Richard J.
Janelli (1979-80), Peter Law (1983-84), Monty C.
Lutz (1975-76), Charles R. Meyers (1970-71),
Andrew M. Newquist (1976-77), Arthur R. Paholke
(1972-73), Donald E. Smith (1991-92), Robert J. Smith
(1984-85), Gerald R. Styers, (1993-94), James Warner
(1974-75) and George R. Wilson (1980-81). In addition,
many members of the first year’s 175 participants also served in
several other officer positions as well as numerous committee
This initial first year Participant group also
contained the first real pioneer in the area of “Firearm
and Tool Mark Identification Criteria.” That Pioneer was
Alfred A.”Al” Biasotti. His initial work predated
AFTE by some period of time. He indicated early on that
his purpose was “to make firearms identification more a science
than an art.” In 1955 he prepared an unpublished Master’s Thesis
entitled “Bullet Comparison, A Study of Fired Bullets
Statistically Analyzed.”. This was then presented as a
condensed summary to the AAFS Meeting at the Drake
Hotel in Chicago in March of 1957. The paper was
subsequently published (January 1959) in the Journal of
Forensic Sciences as “A Statistical Study of the
Individual Characteristics of Fired Bullets.” This was not
received with any enthusiasm but rather a mixed reaction.
Al’s letter to me in March of 1964 reported on the objective
of his papers – “It is nothing more than a plea for objectivity
in firearms identification decision making. As Mr. Howe
may have told you, the plea fell mostly on deaf ears.” In the
early years there was a faction that did not want to be bothered
with such theoretical nonsense and held to the idea that “I know
an identification when I see one.” His concept of “Consecutive
Matching Striations” CMS is now well known and
respected basis for identification. Biasotti’s early
pioneering work was and is carried on by John Murdock,
(also one of the initial 175 participants) Uchiyama and
others. Al was certainly many years ahead of the times.
The impact of the more recent years “Daubert” case only
serves to highlight the importance of Biasotti’s early
work. Al was a native of California where he attended
high school and later the University of California. He served in
the United States Air Force in WWII flying combat missions with
the 9th Air Force. (B-26 gunner, navigator and
bombardier.) Al’s career first started as a laboratory
technician with the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory in
1951. In 1953 Al became a criminalist at the Pittsburgh
Allegheny County Crime Laboratory. In 1956 he returned to
California where he joined the Santa Clara County Laboratory.
In 1972 Al transferred to the Department of Justice
as a Criminalist Manger. In September of 1975, Al was
appointed to a national “Panel of Experts” by Los Angeles
Superior Court Judge Robert Wenke for the re-examination and
testing of the firearms evidence in the case of the People of
the State of California v. Sirhan B. Sirhan. (Robert
Kennedy Assassination) More about this later. Al was
awarded the Key Man of the Year at the 1981 AFTE Conference.
He retired from the CA Department of Justice, Bureau of Forensic
Services in 1990. He retired as Assistant Bureau Chief. Al
passed away June 24th, 1997 at his Orangevale, CA
home from the complications of Parkinson’s disease. He was 71.
Note: Cleon “Red” Mauer advised me that an
early copy of Al’s thesis (described above) is in the
Wisconsin Crime Laboratory library and has Al’s comments
and notes written on the margins of several of the pages.
My longtime friend Andrew “Andy” B. Hart
was also one of this first group of 175 participants. Andy
joined the New York State Police as a trooper back in
1937. In 1944 he was assigned to the New York State Police Crime
Laboratory at Albany. He retired in 1965 and continued his
firearms work as a private consultant. In addition to AFTE
he held memberships in the IAI and AAFS. For some
period of time he taught the subject of firearms identification
at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, N.Y. where a
two-year police science course was offered. In the area of
firearms identification, Andy was a prolific writer and made
many significant contributions to the literature in the field of
firearms identification. . Many of his articles were published
in the period of the 1950s and 1960s. The articles were
published in The “Bulletin of the Bureau of Criminal
Investigation” of the New York State Police, “Identification
News”, “American Rifleman” and others. After the
formation of AFTE a few of his articles were published in
the AFTE Journal during the early years. Andy was also
the AFTE Membership Secretary for an unprecedented 15
years. (1976-1991) Andy was the subject of a feature
article by Mason Williams that appeared in the old “Guns
& Hunting Magazine for August 1967 under the title “One Man
Crime Lab.” The opening comments reveal the
following – “Firearms Consultant Andy Hart is a
scientific sleuth whose gun knowledge has solved many a mystery
for the police – and whose expert testimony has helped hundreds
of juries bring in the right verdict. “ Andy is not one
to “Toot his own horn” but is quick to offer encouragement,
assistance and compliments to others. My first contact with
Andy was by way of a letter he sent to me in December of
1956. His letter reads as follows – “I have just finished
reading your extremely interesting article entitled “Identification
Peculiarity of the .32 caliber Iver Johnson Revolver.”
…”This information, I feel, is of great value and although I
have been the “Firearms Identification” man for this Division
for some years, I have never paid any particular attention to
these markings. ...too often a man’s concrete contributions, to
a particular field of endeavor, go apparently unrecognized.
Therefore, I feel that a few remarks, such as mine, at least
will serve to indicate to you that your efforts have been
noted.” This kind letter from Andy was indeed very much
appreciated. In looking back however, I suspect that such
remarks would have been more aptly directed towards “Andy’s”
efforts than towards mine. Thereafter through the 50’s and the
60’s we enjoyed a lively exchange of correspondence.
Unfortunately the 70s and 80s saw this correspondence exchange
gradually dwindle away. In his quiet friendly manner, Andy
became a friend to many and as a result, touched many lives. It
is unfortunate but probably true that at this time, very few of
our current active members remember or have ever heard of
Andy Hart. So I would say, “hats off” to this early days
gentle, humble man of achievement. He presently resides in
Rensselaer, New York.
First AFTE Membership Cards
After adopting a Constitution and a set of
By-Laws at the second AFTE meeting 24-25 February 1970, the
mechanism for processing memberships was placed into operation.
On August 17, 1970, I received a letter from
Edward G. Bigler the AFTE Vice-President. This letter
forwarded to me my first membership card. The Secretary
Robert C. Nichol signed the card. The card (3-1/2x2-1/2”)
has a gold AFTE emblem and certified that I was a
“Regular” member for the year 1970. No membership number was
assigned. This general format was continued for several years.
In 1976 the Gold AFTE emblem was changed to a black one.
First AFTE Life Memberships
The Life Memberships did not become available
until 1982. I have a letter dated September 10th
1982 from David J. Brundage, AFTE Treasurer that
reads as follows –
“Here is your
LIFE MEMBERSHIP card! Sorry it took so long to get to you, but I
wanted it special and perfect for the twenty of you that have
become our first life members. Hope you like it.”
(The card is an attractive plastic laminated card.)
Assignment of Membership
One might expect that the
“Original 36” members that arrived in Chicago on 26
February 1969 would have been assigned the first 36 membership
numbers. Well “it ain’t so McGee.”
In researching this matter
it appears that most of the first 36 numbers are not presently
assigned to anyone. Only nine (9) of these numbers are presently
assigned to anyone. The assigned numbers are 1, 2, 4, 7, 12, 21,
26, 27, and 33. The other numbers are unassigned. Curiously none
of the assigned numbers are assigned to any of the earliest
members. None are assigned to the “Original 36”. None of
the 36 numbers are assigned to anyone on Walter Howe’s
roster listing of 25 February 1970. (This listing was of the
first 175 participants who completed application and paid their
initial dues.) Nor are any of the 36 numbers even assigned to
anyone on the 2nd year membership roster for
for example, who was one of the “Original 36” and the
first AFTE President, is currently member number 1502.
Walter Howe advises
that during his first year as President, (1969-1970) no
membership numbers were assigned. The records were simply kept
in alphabetical order.
All of my old membership cards running from the
first card issued in 1970 until I received my Life Membership in
1982 do not contain a membership number.
Our current membership chairman, Terry Eaton
advises that currently membership numbers are assigned
sequentially and the present numbering is over 2500. He does not
know when this system was first started.
As best I can deduce, it
appears that the first membership numbers were not assigned
until after the new membership admission requirements were
adopted (1974) and were actually put in place. Probably 1978 and
later. Sometime subsequent to the new admission requirements
being adopted, it was determined that all of the existing
memberships would have to complete new membership applications
that required the signature endorsement of three (3) members and
accompanied by letters of recommendations from the same
endorsing members. In other words there would be no
grandfathering of existing members.
I have an undated letter (received in mid 1978)
from Richard Janelli, 1st Vice President and
Chairman of the Board of Governors. It reads in part as follows:
“We the Board
of Governors are now in the process of reviewing all the regular
members of AFTE. Enclosed is your new application and
please be sure to fill out same COMPLETELY which will include
the three (3) letters of recommendation and a new photograph.
The reasons for the letters of recommendation are that on our
original application no letters were required only signatures
and in some instances this caused a minor problem. Under our new
By-Laws ALL members are required to submit three (3) letters of
I noted that on the top of my new application
referred to above, it contains a stamped number of 00114. Number
114 is my current membership number.
Apparently the new
application forms were all pre-numbered. Further, it seems that
there was no effort made or method devised to match the new
numbering to the early original 36 members or even to the
first two years members. The numbers seem to have been given out
at random or as was convenient to the processing of the new
Unfortunately AFTE missed the opportunity
to utilize the numbering for significant historical purposes.
The 3rd AFTE 1971 Phoenix
The conference was held on February 22-23, 1971
at Del Webb’s Townhouse, Phoenix, Arizona. This meeting
was once again held in conjunction with the meeting of the
AAFS. The AFTE presiding
President was Charles R. Meyers. Charlie recalled
the 1971 meeting very well – “We didn’t have hardly any funds,
but I was able to arrange with the AAFS Program Chairman
and the President to meet with AAFS and they footed the
bill outside our banquet meal with one proviso; we had to allow
any AAFS members that wished, to sit in on our papers.
The meeting rooms were the expandable wall types; after the
first couple AFTE papers, we had to expand two or three
times to get them all in. Afterwards, the AAFS Program
Chairman told me that AFTE had the most interesting
presenters at the joint meeting!”
Note: In those early days when the AFTE Treasury
was low, the Michigan State Police was kind enough to
provide AFTE with printed letterheads, application forms,
certificates, and other printing needs at no cost to AFTE.
The Program Chairman was DeWayne Wolfer.
The two-day conference featured 26 technical presentations. The
first day’s presentations ran until 9:PM that night. The AFTE
banquet was held on the evening of the 2nd day.
The newly elected incoming President for the
1971-1972 year was Edward G. Bigler. (Florida Department
of Law Enforcement) The new Vice President was DeWayne A.
Wolfer, (Los Angeles PD) the Secretary was Herbert E.
Binsbacher, Jr., (Kansas City, MO PD) the Treasurer was
Robert J. Smith (Chicago PD) and the Editor was Steve
Molnar Jr. (Ohio State Bureau of C. I. & I.) The new
1971-1972 three-man Executive Committee members were Stanton
O. Berg, (Minneapolis) Arthur R. Paholke (Chicago PD)
and Charles R. Meyers. (Michigan State Police) The new
board of Admissions was Allan E. Wilimovsky, Sr.
(Wisconsin Department of Justice), John G. Sojat
(Dade County Florida Department of Public Safety) and
Peter S. Gazey. (Royal Canadian Mounted Police)
First Historian Appointed - 1971
President Edward G. Bigler appointed the
first AFTE Historian in June of 1971. Ernie Warner
of the Chicago PD was appointed Public Information and
Historical officer for the association. This appointment was
discussed at the Executive Committee meeting in Chicago in June
of 1971 and then again later at the general membership business
meeting during the 4th AFTE 1972 Meeting in
Atlanta, Georgia. Warner retained this position until
replaced by the appointment of James “Jim” L. Pickleman
(Michigan State Police) as reported in the November 1st
1975 “Information Letter No. 1” issued by President Monty C.
Note: The reference to “Public Information” as a
part of the first “Historian’s” title was the first of two brief
forays by AFTE into the public relations arena. This
title was soon dropped. The second reference to public relations
came in July of 1979 when President Richard J. Janelli
appointed me as the Chairman of the “Public Relations
Committee”. The AFTE Journal for July 1979 has the
following note in the President’s Message. “The final committee
that was set up was the Public Relations Committee. Stanton
Berg suggested the committee and you can guess who is
heading it up. Stan will work with a person from the area
where the next meeting is to be held plus give us the exposure
due us. In my opinion, AFTE is as important, professional
and prestigious as the Academy or any other forensic group
anywhere. If any member has any ideas which might be of help to
Stan, please contact him.” Because of the lack of any
real interest by AFTE members in regard to public
relations, this committee was phased out after 1980.
The 4th AFTE 1972 Meeting
in Atlanta, Georgia
The 4th annual AFTE meeting was
held at the Sheraton-Biltmore Hotel, in Atlanta, Georgia
from Monday 28 February 1972 through Wednesday 1 March 1972.
This was a three-day conference as this was leap year and
February had 29 days. The first day Monday was registration day.
The 2nd day Tuesday was a full meeting day that ran
until 9 PM that night. The annual business meeting was in the
morning. Wednesday was another full meeting
day with the AFTE Annual Banquet held that evening.
The presiding President was
Edward G. Bigler.
The AFTE conference
was once again held in conjunction with the AAFS
conferences. The AAFS again provided the meeting rooms
and handled the general meeting expenses other than the AFTE
Banquet. Once again, the AAFS members were welcomed
to all AFTE meetings except the business meeting.
The Program Chairman for
the meeting was Patrick V. Garland of the U.S. Army Crime
Laboratory at Fort Gordon, Georgia. There were 10 technical
presentations plus a “bring your own slides” evening session.
Arrangements were made for a special 3-hour visit to the
Military Armament Corporation at Powder Springs, Georgia for
a weapons demonstration.
The Treasurer Bob Smith informed the membership that the
association had to be incorporated and paper work filed with the
IRS in order to become a charitable organization. This
would also prevent individual memberships from having legal
liability. The necessary steps to implement the changes to make
AFTE a legal entity were placed in motion at this
The conference elected the following slate of
officers and committee’s for the 1972-1973 AFTE year. -
The newly elected President for the year was Arthur R.
Paholke of the Chicago PD. The new Vice President was
Patrick V. Garland of the Army Crime Laboratory at Fort
Gordon, Georgia. Treasurer would again be Robert J. Smith
of the Chicago PD. The new Editor would be James E. Hamby
also of the Army Crime Laboratory at Fort Gordon, GA. The
Executive Committee would be Edward G. Bigler, (FL
Department of Law Enforcement), John S. Bates Jr. (New
York State Police) and James H. Warner (Los Angeles
County Sheriff Dept.). The Board of Admissions would be Allan
E. Wilimovsky, Sr. (WI Department of Justice), Peter S.
Gazey (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) and Donald E.
Champagne (FL Department of Law Enforcement.)
First AFTE Journal
The first issue of the new
AFTE Journal came out 10 August 1972 as Volume 4, No. 3.
Betty Garland was pictured on the front cover with this
caption – ‘Mrs. Betty Garland is shown sitting with the
AFTE Flag that she designed and sewed for our Association.” I do
not know if the picture was intentionally set up in the manner
it was, but it was not unlike a similar portrait I have seen of
The first issue contains an explanatory editor’s
note on page one by James Hamby. “With this edition, you
will note that the name of the AFTE Newsletter has been
changed to AFTE Journal. One of the many reasons for the
change of name was to place the efforts of those members who
write for the association on an equal par with other individuals
who appear in court as “Expert” witnesses. The majority of
professional publications use the name or title of Journal. Our
use of the title Journal should equate to the jury more easily
than Newsletter. I believe that the AFTE has reached the
time when we can begin to move upward and upward. I’m proud to
announce that the membership in our Association has reached and
passed the 200 mark….”
The Ladies of AFTE
In the early pre AFTE days, firearms
examiners were all men and not much thought was given to the
matter. That’s just the way it was. The handling and shooting of
firearms was considered a man’s sort of thing. It was definitely
a men’s club. Shortly after the formation of AFTE a young
lady burst onto the scene like a thunderclap and forever changed
the gender complexion of the profession of firearms examiners.
This young lady was Susan M. Komar.
She was featured on the front cover of AFTE Newsletter
No. Eleven (11) published December 10th 1970.
The cover picture has the reader looking down the business end
of a revolver held by Ms. Komar. The title under the
picture read – “Miss Susan Komar – AFTE’s only
girl type firearms examiner.” At that time Susan was a
Crime Laboratory Analyst II, with the Illinois Bureau of
Identification at Joliet, Illinois handling all firearms
cases for the northern half of Illinois (except Chicago).
Susan first began her career in September of 1967 under the
supervision of Joseph D. Nicol, Superintendent of the
Illinois Bureau of Identification. Susan had just
graduated from St. Louis University with a major in Biology. In
July 1986 she became a Special Agent/Crime Lab analyst with the
North Carolina Bureau of Investigation. In August of 1989
she transferred to her current position (Senior Crime Lab
Analyst) with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement
in the Orlando Crime Laboratory. She has made a number of
contributions to the AFTE Journal. Her current membership
status is Life Distinguished Member.
Since that day in 1970, ladies and AFTE
have become a common association. Two ladies have now held the
office of President.
Louise H. Walzer a
distinguished member was AFTE’s first lady president. She
was the 24th president serving in 1992-1993.
She is currently an Assistant Director/senior firearms
examiner of the Crime Laboratory of the Jefferson Parish
Sheriff’s Office, Metairie, Louisiana. She joined AFTE
in 1979. She has served on the AFTE Nomination Committee
during 1984-1986, and the AFTE By-Laws Committee
1987-1990. She was the AFTE Treasurer 1987-1990, AFTE 2nd
VP 1990-1991, AFTE 1st VP 1991-1992. In 1988
she was the AFTE Member of the Year.
In spite of these
fine accomplishments, I tend to think of the “Dinosaur Club.”
Whenever I think of Louise Walzer. Of course, being a “Dinosaur”
myself has something to do with this reaction. The formation of
the “Dinosaur Club” dates back to 1992. Her President’s
Message of July 1992 tells the story. “The second group would be
older members, the “dinosaurs” (a term I was introduced
to, and became quite fond of, by Dan Gunnell.) These are
the AFTE Members who have seen it all…these members are
the backbone of our organization as well as the founders….During
the banquet, I asked younger members to adopt a “dinosaur”.
(I must add that not all of the older members appreciated being
referred to as a “dinosaur”, so please be careful who you
label.) This adoption went very well and I have information from
a reliable source that a “dinosaur” club will be
formed.”. (Louise was recommending younger inexperienced
members team up with the older experienced “dinosaurs” for the
mutual benefit of both.) When first formed in Raleigh, NC in
1993, the “Dinosaur Club” was headed up by “Ole Dinosaur”
George Wilson. The Dinosaur Club has its own
membership cards, fees, pins and shirts.
Ann L. Davis.
Ann is a Supervisor, Forensic Scientist IV with the
Virginia Division of Forensic Science in Richmond, VA. She
is also a Life Distinguished Member. She was elected as the
AFTE 35th President at the annual Seminar in
Philadelphia in 2003. She will be our presiding President as we
celebrate our 35th anniversary year in 2004. Since
Ann joined AFTE in 1984 she was been a very busy young
lady. She has hosted 2 of the AFTE seminars. The first in
Virginia Beach with John Ward in 1989 and the second in
1999 where she served as the Financial and Registration chair.
She has been on the Board of Directors for 10 years. She served
as Membership Secretary from 1992-1998. She has also served as
Member at Large, 2nd Vice President and 1st
Vice President prior to reaching her summit position. With this
history of achievements what could she possibly do for an
I am advised by Michelle Kuehner (who
researched this subject) that at the present time “there
are at least 84 females with 13 unknowns” in our
membership roster. The reason for this question appears to
revolve around the fact that gender is not a part of the AFTE
roster database. Michelle was forced to make her
determination based on reviewing the names in the roster. The
name did not always suggest the gender. She advises, “most
unknowns are from Japan, Singapore, India etc.” In any event,
this is remarkable change from the year 1970 when we had only
one female member.
The First Distinguished Members.
It was during President Arthur R. Paholke’s
term of office (1972-1973) that the first AFTE Distinguished
members were designated based on a participation point
I was honored to be in the first group of
Distinguished Members. I received a letter (2/23/1973) signed by
Ernest N. Warner the Historian and Arthur R. Paholke
the President, advising me that I had been selected as a
Distinguished member and would be awarded an honorary plaque at
the May 1973 AFTE conference.
The April 1973 issue of the AFTE Journal
listed all of the AFTE members that qualified and had
been selected for the new Distinguished Membership designation.
The first “Distinguished Members” are listed below in
alphabetical order. There were 29 in total.
|John S. Bates Jr.
||Stanton O. Berg
|Edward G. Bigler
||Herbert E. Binsbacher Jr.
|Edward B. Crossman
||James M. Gainer
|Patrick V. Garland
||James E. Hamby
|Lonny R. Harden
|Walter J. Howe
||Ray R. Lambert
|Vincent J. Lomoro
||Monty C. Lutz
|Charles R. Meyers
|Burton D. Munhall
||Thomas V. Nicholson
|Burt C. Nielson
||Arthur R. Paholke
|George W. Roche
||Donald E. Smith
|Robert J. Smith
||John G. Sojat
|John C. Stauffer
||Malden D. Waite
|Ernest N. Warner
||James H. Warner
|DeWayne A. Wolfer
The 5th AFTE 1973 Conference in
The 5th annual AFTE conference
was held at the Ascot House Hotel in Chicago, Illinois on
May 14-17, 1973. This meeting was of special historical
significance. This was the first meeting that was not scheduled
and timed with the AAFS meetings. This represented
AFTE’s first total independence from the AAFS. From
this time forward, the AFTE meetings would never again be
scheduled coincidentally with the AAFS meetings. AFTE
had finally come of age and had the financial resources to
conduct their meetings independent of any other forensic
organization. For those AFTE members who were also
AAFS members, and who wanted to attend both conference
meetings, this move of independence proved to be a financial
handicap. Suddenly their travel expenses had doubled as well as
the problem of scheduling time away on 2 separate occasions. The
combination members however represented a minority and no
thought was ever given to reversing this move of independence.
The program chairman for this meeting was
Donald E. Smith, (Chicago PD) with James M. Gainer
(Chicago PD) handling local arrangements. The presiding
President was Arthur R. Paholke of the Chicago PD.
Registration was on the afternoon of the 14th.
The meeting started off at 9:00 AM on Tuesday the 15th.The
AFTE Business meeting was held that morning. In the afternoon
the technical program presentations were started. There were a
total of 20 technical presentations ending on Thursday afternoon
the 17th of May.
The keynote speaker for the conference was
Burton D. Munhall who spoke on “Accomplishments and
Endeavors of the Association, a Look at its Future Potential.”
The Annual AFTE Banquet was also held on
the evening of the 17th. It was at this Banquet that
the first Key Person of the Year award was made. I was
honored to receive the first such award. The award was to cover
the year 1972. Steve Molnar made the award presentation
The award first called the Key Man of the Year was
later changed to Key Person of the Year Award. In 1996,
the Key Person of the Year award was renamed the Steve
I had previously received
a letter from Arthur R. Paholke in March of 1973 that
advised me of the pending award and the purpose of the award.
“As you will recall shortly after I was selected President of
the Association of “Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners, I appointed
a Chairman (Steve Molnar) to work with a Committee, to
select a member of our Association most deserving of the Key
Man Award. The member selected for the Key Man Award
was to be selected from those members contributing to the
Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners Journal. The
contributor had to be….not only for articles printed but he must
also be consistent in submitting articles.”
There were 122 attendees at this
conference of which 97 were members and 25 were non-members.
The conference elected the following slate of
officers and committee’s for the 1973-1974 AFTE year. For
President, Mr. Patrick V. Garland of the US Army Crime
Laboratory – Europe. For Vice President, Mr. James Warner
of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Crime Laboratory. For
Secretary, Mr. John S. Bates of the New York State Police
Crime Laboratory. For Treasurer, Mr. Robert J. Smith of
the Chicago Police Crime Laboratory. For the Executive Board,
Mr. Warren Johnson of the Commonwealth of Virginia
Regional Laboratory, Richmond, VA, Herbert Binsbacher of
the Regional Center for Criminal Justice, Kansas City, Missouri
and Arthur Paholke, Chicago Police Crime Laboratory. For
the Board of Admissions, Mr. Frederick M. Hurst of the
North Carolina State Police Crime Laboratory, Peter S. Gazey
of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Allan E. Willimovsky,
Wisconsin Department of Justice and Donald E. Champagne
of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The Editor would
be Otis L. Hensley, U. S. Army Crime Laboratory at Fort
The year 1973, AFTE’s 5th year,
saw the membership climb to approx. 250 members in total.
This represented members from 16 different nations.
The program chairman for 1974 would be George
Wilson, Metro Police Department, Washington D.C.
New Admission Requirements
The Executive Committee meeting minutes for
October 7-8, 1973 contained details from the Board of
Admissions on a new membership application. The application
would have the effect of tightening the admission requirements.
“The Board of Admissions reported that a revised membership
application form is being prepared. The form will require more
pertinent information on an applicant’s training and duties
within firearms and/or tool mark identification. In addition the
applicant must have the form personally signed by three regular
members who recommend membership, or have letters of
recommendation submitted with the application. The form will be
ready about January 1.”
The final version required both the three endorsing members
signatures on the application and three supporting letters to be
sent to the Board of Governors. Eventually it was decided that
all the membership would have to conform to the new application
requirements. There was to be no grandfathering as it related to
the new requirements. I was honored to have Al Biasotti,
Don Smith and Pat Garland endorse my new
application and provide the required letters to the Board of
The 6th AFTE 1974 Meeting and
the 5th AFTE Anniversary
Meeting at Washington, D.C.
This meeting was both the 6th AFTE
Meeting and the 5th Anniversary Meeting. It was
scheduled for February 10-15, 1974 at the Statler-Hilton
Hotel in Washington, D.C. One could now feel safe in
predicting that AFTE was here to stay. It was both a
growing organization and a financially sound one. The Treasurer
had reported a year-end cash account of approx. $4270. Not bad
for a young organization that needed whatever help (financial
and otherwise) they could get during the first few years.
The program Chairman for the conference was
George Wilson. George arranged a V.I.P. Tour of the
White House. In addition there would be a tour of the
Firearms International factory to observe the manufacture of
firearms. The NRA Headquarters and Museum would also be
open special hours for AFTE.
The Key Man Award for 1973 went to
Monty Lutz. The Man of the Year 1973, award went to
George Wilson and Maurice Stack jointly.
The Officers elected for
the 1974-1975 AFTE year is as follows: President,
James Warner, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office. Vice
President, Herbert Binsbacher, Kansas City, Missouri PD.
Secretary, John S. Bates, New York State Police.
Treasurer, Robert J. Smith, Chicago Police Department.
Executive Committee, Patrick V. Garland, USACIL – Europe,
George Wilson, Washington DC Metro Police Department and
Andy Newquist, BCI, Iowa.
Otis Hensley, Fort
Gordon Crime Laboratory continued as Editor of the
The October 1974 – December 1974 issue of the AFTE Journal
announced that effective with that combined issue, a new Editor
would replace Otis Hensley. George Wilson, Metro
Police Department, Ballistics Lab., Washington D. C. would be
the new Editor.
First Proposed Code of
Russell Wilhelm was
appointed as chairman (1974-1975) of an Ethics Committee
to prepare a “Code of Ethics”. Also appointed to the
committee were Cortlandt Cunningham and Col. Edward B.
Crossman. A proposed “Code of Ethics” was recommended and
published in the AFTE Journal October 1974 – December
1974. It was simple, concise and consisted of five brief
paragraphs. The committee requested comments as well as any
suggested changes and recommendations. It was republished again
in the March 1975 issue of the AFTE Journal with the
further advisory that a final version would be submitted to the
AFTE Business Meeting in Dan Diego, CA on April 22, 1975.
The AFTE Business Meeting report of 22 April 1975
contains the following reference to the “Code of Ethics’. “AFTE’s
proposed Code of Ethics was read to the members present. Joe
Reitz moved, and Jim Hamby seconded a motion to adopt
the Code as read. The motion was carried.”
The 1975 Re-Examination and
of The Robert Kennedy Firearms Evidence
Following Senator Robert Kennedy’s
assassination on June 5th, 1968, Sirhan B. Sirhan
was charged with the crime and found guilty after a California
jury trial. Thereafter, the California Appellate Court and
Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court denied every
appeal and writ filed by the defendant Sirhan. A quote
from the Los Angeles Times (7/13/75) may serve to place
the matter in historical perspective – “Was there ever a plainer
case. Perhaps 90-100 persons were jammed in the Ambassador’s
(Hotel) pantry when Senator Kennedy was shot. Close
friends and associates were in nearly physical contact with him.
Suddenly Sirhan rushed across the room, screamed an oath,
reached past an assistant maitre d’ escorting Kennedy and
fired at the Senator. Sirhan was captured. His gun was
seized and his captors protected him from enraged members of the
crowd. Not a single person who was in that crowed pantry ways
now says anyone besides Sirhan was seen firing a gun. A
television film runner once said he saw a guard fire a weapon,
but he has since backtracked. At the trial, Sirhan
admitted he shot Kennedy, and his attorneys focused
attempts to save his life on grounds of diminishing mental
capacity.” As the Times said – “Was there ever a plainer case?”
Despite all of this legal and other history,
there soon developed pressures and demands in many quarters and
by the news media to reopen the case. As is almost always the
case, a number of assassination buffs emerged to join the
chorus. The National Enquirer (Oct 31, 1971) headlined
“Claim New Evidence Shows Sirhan did not Assassinate
Senator Kennedy.” This story outlined the charge by a
California Criminalist William W. Harper that there were
differences in the rifling angles found on certain evidence
bullets. Later the Chicago Daily News (2/21/1975)
published a story that arose out of the AAFS Conference
in Chicago and a panel discussion. The paper described
Harper’s allegations that there was a difference in the
rifling angle between Exhibit 47 (Kennedy bullet) and Exhibit 54
(Weisel bullet). Weisel was one of the injured bystanders. This
he said suggested that different guns had fired the 2 bullets.
Herbert MacDonell had also joined Harper in
support of this allegation. Herbert MacDonell also raised
the question of a different number of cannelures between these 2
bullets thus suggesting different brands of ammunition and
because all the fired cartridge cases in Sirhan’s gun were of
the same brand, another gun must have been involved. Both felt
there was a difference in the rifling clarity thereby suggesting
different guns. They also could find no matching individual
characteristics on Harper’s Balliscan photos to
suggest they were fired from the same gun.
Almost simultaneously, (early September 1975)
Paul Schrade (one of the wounded bystanders) and CBS
news made application to Los Angeles Superior Court Judge
Robert Wenke to inspect and test certain ballistics
exhibits. CBS based its application for the inspection
and testing on the rather unique argument of “the public’s right
to know.” Judge Wenke ordered the retesting and provided
that each of the interested parties could select an expert
to serve on a special experts panel.
order for retesting dated 9/18/1975 identified the seven (7)
experts who would do the retesting and examination. “Under the
supervision of the Court, and subject only to the terms and
condition set forth in this order, the following seven (7)
firearms experts shall conduct scientific examination of the
exhibits and material delineated in this order:”
Cortland Cunningham, F.B.I,
Washington, D.C. (Selected by the Attorney General of
Stanton O. Berg, Minneapolis,
Minnesota. (Selected by Los Angeles County.)
Alfred A. Biasotti, California
Department of Justice, Sacramento, California. (Selected by
District Attorney’s Office of Los Angles.)
Lowell W. Bradford, San Jose,
California. (Selected by CBS News.)
Ralph Turner, East Lansing, Michigan.
(Selected by gun shot victim Schrade.)
Charles V. Morton, Oakland,
California. (Selected by Defendant Sirhan.)
Patrick V. Garland, Tidewater Regional
Laboratory, Norfolk, Virginia. (Selected as Expert at
The seven-member panel was uneven in number to
prevent a tie vote in the event of a dispute. Five (5) members
of the panel were AFTE members. Only Ralph Turner
and Charles V. Morton were not members of AFTE.
Morton and Turner were however members of AAFS.
In accordance with the provisions of the Court’s
order the seven panel members assembled in Los Angeles.
On Tuesday, September 23rd, 1975, the panel members
were present at a meeting of the Los Angeles County Board of
Supervisors, where they were introduced to the supervisors,
press and public. Patrick Garland was selected by the
panel members to serve as the Court Administrator, to comply
with the Court’s order. That afternoon the panel was taken to
their selected work area, a jury room in Department 3, Los
Angeles Superior Court to get settled and commence work.
Equipment consisted of two AO forensic comparison microscopes,
one Leitz comparison microscope, several stereomicroscopes and
camera equipment. Several of the panel members brought items of
specialized equipment to supplement the equipment provided by
The Panel was charged with the responsibility of
determining if there was any ballistic evidence of a 2nd
gun and to analyze the questions relating to (1)
rifling angle, (2) rifling clarity and
(3) number of cannelures on the evidence bullets.
The panel spent 10 days making their examinations
and preparing reports. The panel worked from 8:00 AM until 7:00
PM including Saturday and Sunday. During that time they examined
26 bullets or bullet fragments (10 evidence and 16
test bullets including 8 panel test bullets.) and Sirhan’s
Iver Johnson Model 55-SA Cadet .22 caliber double action
revolver. The panel worked without payment or fees however,
Los Angeles County paid their individual travel expenses,
lodging and meals. The County arranged for all the experts to
stay at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
This was relatively close to the area where the panel members
would be working. Most of the panel members would return to the
Biltmore for dinner and relaxed conversation after the days work
was done. It was during such an evening that I became acquainted
with a favorite California drink, the Margarita.
Al Biasotti talked me into trying my first one. It has
also since become my favorite drink for relaxing at the end of a
Because the original controversy on rifling angle
arose as a result of Harper and MacDonell’s observations
and measurements on Balliscan photographs, (photographs
made as the bullet is rotated in front of the lens) this area
was also looked into. Apparently because I was the only one who
had a protractor eyepiece (Wild) for my stereomicroscope,
I was selected along with Ralph Turner to analyze this
area. We made direct angle measurements on the bullets in
question (Kennedy and Weisel Bullets) using my protractor
eyepiece. We found no demonstrable difference in rifling angles.
We also made angle measurements on enlarged Balliscan
photographs on a drafting machine. The Balliscan
photographs represented two rotations of the bullets. It was
concluded that the Balliscan camera did not provide a
reliable means for rifling angle measurements.
It was noted that there were very substantial differences
in rifling angle noted between the same reference points on the
bullet on the 1st and 2d bullet rotation in the same
Balliscan photograph. Also noted were very substantial
differences between the same reference points on Balliscan
photographs of the same bullet made by the same Balliscan
camera but made on different days.
The Panel conclusions were that:
No difference in the
number of bullet cannelures.
No difference in rifling clarity – just
difference in impact damage.
No difference in rifling angles.
No evidence of a second gun.
As to the bullet examinations - Berg,
Cunningham, Bradford and Garland identified
the Kennedy, Goldstein and Weisel bullets
as having been fired through the same firearm. Biasotti
reported that the same three bullets very probably were fired
through the same firearm. Berg, Cunningham,
Garland and Biasotti also suggest a strong indication
that the Sirhan revolver had fired the above mentioned
bullets Turner and Morton’s findings were
All of the experts were subjected to cross
examination in open court as to their findings.
When the panel reports were opened in court they
received wide press coverage. Some examples of headlines would
be - “2nd Gun is Ruled Out”, “Two Gun
Theory Smashed”, “A Theory Disarmed” etc.
The complete details on the examination and
testing including the entire individual and combined panel
members reports can be found in a “Special Edition” (Volume 8,
No. 3) of the AFTE Journal published October 1976.
Patrick Garland prepared the Special Edition narrative.
All of the AFTE Members of the Panel were
later honored by AFTE, receiving a “Special Honors
Award” for their work as a part of the panel. The award was
presented at the At the AFTE Meeting in 1976. The award
read “For outstanding professionalism in examination of firearms
evidence of Robert F. Kennedy assassination.”
To the credit of Herbert MacDonell, I
quote the following from an article by Mark Pinsky prepared for
the 10 July 1977 issue of Tropic – (A Florida Sunday
Supplement) entitled “Bloody Murder.” .”MacDonell
was one of the primary developers of the “second gun” theory of
the Robert Kennedy killing, which he now says was a “beautiful
theory, shot down completely.”
This was not the last time that a special panel made up of
AFTE members examined and reviewed firearms evidence in a
The July 1979 AFTE Journal has a short
article under the heading – “Assassination Committee Firearms
Panel.” “In August of 1977, AFTE was requested to
provide a list of examiners to serve as the Firearms Panel to
the Select Committee on Assassination, United States House of
Representatives. This panel was given the task of
reexamining the firearms evidence for the John F. Kennedy
and Martin L. King, Jr., Assassination inquiry by the
above committee. Selected by the select committee to serve on
the firearms panel were: John Bates, Don Champagne,
Monty Lutz, Andy Newquist and Russ Wilhelm
with George Wilson as technical assistant. Between August
of 1977 and until March 1979, when the firearms panel made their
final visit to Washington, DC for the purpose of reviewing the
final report, the panel spent several hundred hours in the
painstaking examination of the tremendous amount of evidence
involved with both specific cases. This reexamination process
was conducted in Washington, DC utilizing the Washington
Metropolitan Police Department Laboratory which was graciously
made available by George Wilson. Russ Wilhelm
assisted in the King re-examination but was forced to
resign from the Kennedy portion of the reexamination for
As we bring this narrative to an end in the mid
1970s our President was Monty C. Lutz of the Wisconsin
Department of Justice. (1975-1976) The Vice President was
Andrew M. Newquist of the Iowa State Crime Laboratory.
John S. Bates, Jr. of the New York State Police was still
the Secretary and Robert J. Smith of the Chicago PD
Criminalistics Division was still the Treasurer. The Executive
Committee was James Warner (Los Angeles County SO),
George R. Wilson (Metro PD, Washington D.C.), and Bobby
D. Blackburn (FBI Laboratory). As of the April 1975, the
total membership exceeded 300. (302) Pending memberships
totaled 18.The membership breakdown indicated 192 Regular
Members, 107 Associate Members and 3 Emeritus Members. We also
had 34 Distinguished Members.
President Monty Lutz established an “Examinations
and Standards” Committee. The Chairman was Donald E.
Smith of the Chicago PD Criminalistics Division. The
committee members were Al Biasotti (California Department
of Justice), Stanton O. Berg (Firearms Consultant –
Minneapolis), James E. Hamby (Army Crime Laboratory) and
Evan Hodge (FBI Crime Laboratory). The purpose of this
committee was to establish some minimum standards for firearms
examinations. This committee eventually evolved into the AFTE
National Peer Group on Certification. (1978) The make up of
the committee at that time was Al Biasotti (Chairman)
Stanton O. Berg, John Cayton (Secretary), Pat
Garland, Evan Hodge, Art Paholke, Charles
Meyers, Don Smith and John Ward. (Three
alternate members were also selected. They were Bob
Christansen, Monty Lutz and Al Della Penna.)
Apparently AFTE members were not then ready for
certification. AFTE’s goal of certification eluded this
committee and subsequent committees for almost 25 years before
the first certification examinations were held.
Membership – Historical Notes:
As of December 18th, 2003, the total membership
was 810. This number indicates a steady
growth over the years. I doubt that the original-founding
members at the February 1969 meeting would ever have imagined
that the small group of 36 would grow to this size. Even the
1975 membership of 300+ would probably have been surprised at
this continued rate of growth.
In the middle 1960’s (1965) Lyndon B. Johnson
was President, the U.S. Population was 193,526,000, and the
Dow Jones was at $969.26. By the time of AFTE’s
formation in 1969, the country had undergone a recession.
Richard M. Nixon was President, the U. S. Population had
increased to 201,385,00 and the Dow Jones had dropped to
$805.04. As we end this narrative in the mid 1970’s (June 1975)
Gerald R. Ford was President, the U. S. Population was up
to 215,465,00 with the Dow Jones was starting to recover at
AFTE’s Original 36 –
A Summary and an Update
Note: There have been
two numbers used to describe the original 1969 meeting
attendees. One number was 35 and the other was
36. The number 36 is historically the
correct number. One member in effect fell through the cracks.
Joseph Wilimovsky was originally listed as an attendee but
because his first year’s participant dues were never received,
he was dropped from the listings. Walter Howe’s “Complete
Listing of All AFTE Participants” published in February
of 1970 shows a total of 35 members that are
indicated to have been at the 1969 Chicago conference. Joseph
Wilimovsky did not appear on the list because of his lack of
follow through on dues payment.
(Arranged in alphabetical order.)
BERG, Stanton O. “Stan.”
Originally in 1969 he was a private Firearms Consultant
in Minneapolis, MN. He has been a frequent speaker at AFTE
Conferences as well as a frequent contributor to the AFTE
Journal. He was elected to the first AFTE Executive
Committee in 1970 and served for two terms. He was AFTE’s
first recipient of the “Key Man Award” given out at the
1973 conference covering the year 1972. He was in the first
group of 29 Distinguished AFTE Members in 1973. He
received an AFTE “Special Honors Award” in 1976
for work on a national panel that reviewed the evidence in the
Robert Kennedy Assassination. He was named to the new “Examinations
and Standards Committee” in 1976 and later the AFTE
National Peer Group on Certification in 1978. He is a
Distinguished Life member and still works and resides in
BIGLER, Edward “Ed” G.
Originally in 1969 he was Chief, Crime Laboratory Bureau,
at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in
Tallahassee. Previously he had spent 15 years with the Dade
County Crime Laboratory in Miami. In 1970 he was AFTE
Vice President. In 1971 he became the third AFTE
President. He was on the Executive Committee for 1972-1973. He
was in the first group of 29 Distinguished AFTE Members
in 1973. He is currently retired and living in Loveland,
BOESE, “Bob” Robert A.
Originally in 1969 he was with the firearms section of
the Crime Laboratory in the Chicago Police Department. He
later became the Coordinator of the Bureau of Technical
Services in the Criminalistics Division. Bob
eventually went into private consulting work by establishing his
own firm under the name of the B and W Consulting Forensic
Chemists. He was listed as the President with the company
location at Downers Grove, Illinois. The 1989 AFTE roster
shows him at that location. He passed away a few years ago.
Originally in 1969 he was the Forensic Services Laboratory
Director of the St. Louis County Police Department at
Clayton, Missouri. Previously he had been the Firearms Examiner
for the St. Louis City Police Department. In 1969 he left
the City Police Department to accept the Director position with
St. Louis County. He appeared on Walter Howe’s 25
February 1970 listing of 175 paid up participants. He also
appeared on the 1970-1971 AFTE Roster. He did contribute
a short item to AFTE Newsletter No. 4 (12/15/1969)
concerning an automobile ignition puller used by car thieves.
Other than this short item, his name does not appear in the
early AFTE Newsletters or Journals. He continued as
laboratory director until his death. The Social Security Death
Index shows that he passed away in October 1978 at Florissant,
CAYWOOD, “Doug” Douglas Allen.
Originally in 1969 he was with the United States Army
Crime Laboratory in Germany. During that time he was one of
Lockhoven’s co-authors of the significant 3 volume works
“Arms Archives” published by International Small Arms
Publishers in 1969. M. D. Waite reviewed this publication
in the December 1969 issue of the AFTE Newsletter. In the
1982 AFTE directory, Doug is shown as an
independent consultant at Cannon City, Colorado. He later went
into private consulting under the name of J. M. C
Laboratories at Grand Junction, Colorado where he was listed
as Senior Criminalist. In The 1989 through 1992 AFTE
rosters he was listed with Western Forensic Sciences at
Grand Junction, CO. I remember Doug as a frequent annual
conference attendee in the early years.. He does not appear in
the AFTE rosters after 1992.
CELOVSKY, Joseph “Joe” Richard.
Originally in 1969 he was in the Firearms Section of
the Chicago Police Department Crime Laboratory. He was an
AFTE Journal contributor in the early 1970s. He retired from
the Chicago PD in 1985. The 1992 AFTE roster shows him as
a distinguished member residing at Clearwater, Florida.
CHAMPAGNE, Donald E. “Don”
Originally in 1969 he was at the Florida Department of Law
Enforcement in Tallahassee. He served on the Board of
Admissions from 1972-1974. Don was the 2d. Vice President in
1976-1977. He was the 1st Vice President in
1977-1978. He became the 10th AFTE President
in 1978-79. He served on the Executive Committee in 1979-1980.
Don served on the Special Firearms Panel to the Select
Committee of Assassination, U.S. House of Representatives
during 1977-1979. He is currently an Emeritus Member living in
Port St. Joe, Florida.
CHRISTENSEN, Kenard “Ken” K.
Originally in 1969 he was with the Michigan State
Police at Plymouth, Michigan. Kenard joined the Michigan
State Police on 20 June 1949. He was the Commanding Officer of
the Plymouth Regional Crime Laboratory. He later moved to the
Northville, MI Crime Laboratory. He retired from the Michigan
State Police as a Captain on 13 October 1978. During his
retirement he organized a hospital laboratory specializing in
serological paternity and child identification testing. He
passed away on 23 December 1989.
FINNEGAN, Edward V.
Originally in 1969 he was with the American Optical
Company in Rosemount, Illinois. In 1970 he became an
associate member. A report from the Treasurer (Robert J.
Smith) dated September 27th, 1971 recommended he
be dropped as a member for failure to pay his 1971 dues. No
further record is noted of Mr. Finnegan.
GAINER, James M. “Jim.”
Originally in 1969 he was in the Firearms Section of
the Chicago Police Department Crime Laboratory. He started
at the Crime Lab in April 1967. John Stauffer was his
mentor in those early days. Jim was in the first group of
29 Distinguished Members in 1973. Jim was also the joint
program chairman for the 1973 meeting in Chicago. He retired
from the Chicago PD Crime Lab. In June 1995 (supervisor) after
28 years. He was then employed at the
Illinois State Police Forensic Science Center in Chicago as
a Criminalistics Section supervisor. He is now a retired (July
1999) Emeritus member living in the Western suburbs (Burr Ridge)
of the Chicago area. (See earlier
HOPPE, August O.
Originally in 1969 he was with the New Jersey State
Police, at Trenton, NJ. He apparently did not progress
beyond the early participant stage. He was shown on Walter
Howe’s February 25, 1970 roster as one of the 175 paid
participants. He did not however appear on
the 1970-1971 AFTE roster.
HOWE, Walter J.
Originally in 1969 he was listed in the roster as a
firearms consultant at Wilton, Connecticut. Previously he
had been the Editor of the American Rifleman Magazine
from 1953-1966. While the Editor he has such people as
General Julian Hatcher on his technical staff. In 1962 he
became a member of the AAFS sponsored by Burt Munhall.
In 1968 he became associated with Ruger as a legislative
and marketing consultant. Walter became the first AFTE
president in 1969. He was more than just the first President.
Walter was the AFTE guiding light in the early years.
In 1970 he became a member of the first Executive Board.
Walter was a frequent program participant and a contributor
to the AFTE Journal.. He was in the first group of 29
Distinguished AFTE Members in 1973. In 1974 he became
Vice President of Manufacturing at the Ruger Southport CT
plant. He retired from Ruger in 1984. He is currently an
Emeritus member living in Fairfield, Connecticut.
JOHNSON, Warren G.
Originally in 1969 he was with the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, Washington D.C. He served on the first
Membership Committee 1969-1970. He also served on the Executive
Board in 1973-1974. He is currently a retired Emeritus member
living at Manakin-Sabat, VA.
KIRBY, Shane J. “Rip”.
Originally in 1969 he was with the Crime Detection
Laboratory of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in
Regina, Saskatchewan. He first entered the Regina Laboratory in
1957. He retired from the RCMP Regina Laboratory in 1981. When
Shane retired he was a RCMP Staff Sergeant in charge of
the firearms section. He did private consulting for a period of
time following his retirement from the RCMP. Shane is
currently living with a daughter on a ranch near Prince George,
BC, Canada. (See earlier notes.)
KRCMA, Vaclav “Jack”.
Originally in 1969 he was listed as head of the Ballistics
Section of the Laboratory of Legal Medicine and Police Science
in Montreal. Previously he had been with the Firearms
Section of The Attorney General’s Laboratory in Toronto. His
membership never progressed beyond the “participant” stage in
1969-1970. Early newsletters contain several of his articles.
The published 1970-71-membership roster does not list him.
Although he advised me in 1974 that he submitted an application
Ca. 1972. There is a strong disagreement between Jack and
AFTE Staff as to why there was no follow through. In any
event and whatever the reason, AFTE lost one of the
original founding “Participants”, a man with much knowledge and
experience. When I last heard from Jack in July of 1984,
he was a private consultant in Willowdale, Ontario.
(See earlier notes.)
LOMORO, Vincent J.
Originally in 1969 he was in the Firearms Section of
the Chicago Police Department Crime Laboratory. He was a
frequent AFTE Journal contributor in 1969 and 1970s. He
was in the first group of 29 AFTE Distinguished Members
in 1973. He retired from the Chicago PD in 1990. He is now a
retired Emeritus member living in Orland Park, IL.
MATHEWS, J. Howard.
Originally in 1969 he was Emeritus Professor (Chemistry) at
the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He passed away in
Madison on April 15th, 1970 at the age of 88 years.
He is noted as the author of the massive 2-volume book “Firearms
Identification” published in 1962 by the University of
Wisconsin. He published the first edition at the age of 81.
Charles C. Thomas published a second 3-volume edition after his
death. Volume III of the second edition was published with the
Editorial Assistance of AFTE Member Allan E.
Wilimovsky. (See earlier notes.)
MEYERS, Charles R.”Charlie”
Originally in 1969 and until 1973 he was a Det.
Lieut. Heading the Crime Laboratory, Department of State
Police, East Lansing, Michigan.. He became AFTE’s 2d
President for the term 1970-1971. In 1971 he became one of
the AFTE Executive Committee members. He was a
frequent AFTE Conference speaker and a contributor to the
AFTE Journal. He was in the first group of 29
Distinguished AFTE Members in 1973. Later 1n 1976-1988 he
served as a Senior Analyst in Firearms and Tool Mark
identification with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement
at the Sanford and Orlando Crime Laboratories. In 1989 he
retired to do independent firearms consulting. He is currently
an Emeritus Member living in Mountain City, TN.
MUNHALL, Burton D. “Burt”
Originally in 1969 he was a Technical Consultant with the
Federal Cartridge Co. in Anoka, MN. Previously he had been
the Manager of the H. P. White Laboratory in Bel Air, MD. He
retired from Federal in December 1977. Burt served as the
Program Chairman for the 2d AFTE Conference in
Chicago in 1970. Burt was in the first group of 29
Distinguished AFTE Members in 1973. Prior to his
retirement he was a frequent speaker at the AFTE
Conferences as well as a contributor to the AFTE Journal.
He passed away in 1997. (See
NICHOL, Robert Charles “Bob”.
Originally in 1969 he was Firearms Section Head with the
Centre of Forensic Sciences in Toronto, Ontario. He was
elected as the Secretary at the 2d AFTE Conference in
1970. He was Co-Program Chairman for the 1976 AFTE
Conference in Toronto. In 1981 he left his job with the Centre
of Forensic Sciences to work with the Ontario Police Commission
in the installation of new computer equipment. He later retired
to Westmeath, Ontario. He passed away in the spring of 2002.
(See earlier notes.)
NICOL, Joseph D.
Originally in 1969 he was with the University of
Illinois in Chicago. He had previously been the
Superintendent of the Illinois Bureau of Identification.
He served on the first Membership Committee in 1969-1970. He
apparently never advanced beyond the participant membership
stage. He did appear on the 25 February 1970 roster of paid
participants. He did not however appear on the
NIELSON, Burt C.
Originally in 1969 he was in the Firearms Section of
the Chicago Police Department Crime Laboratory. He was an
AFTE Journal contributor in the early 1970s. Burt was
one of the first group of 29 Distinguished AFTE Members
in 1973. Burt retired from the Chicago PD in 1988. He is
currently an Emeritus member operating the B. C. Nielson &
Associates organization in Chicago.
PAHOLKE, Arthur R. “Art”.
Originally in 1969 he was with the Chicago Police Department
Crime Laboratory specializing in tool mark identification.
Arthur was a very active AFTE member. He was a
frequent AFTE Conference speaker and an AFTE Journal
contributor. In 1970 he was elected to the new Board of
Admissions. He served as the 4th AFTE
President for the year 1972-1973. He was one of the first group
of 29 Distinguished AFTE Members in 1973. He was on the
1973-1974 Executive Board. He retired from the Chicago PD after
35 years and moved to Hot Springs, AR. While living in Arkansas
he served as a Forensic Science Instructor at the Arkansas
State Crime Laboratory. He passed away on 7 October 2002.
PURTELL, David J.
Originally in 1969 he was a Captain and the Director of
the Chicago Police Department Crime Laboratory. He did
not advance his membership beyond the participant stage. He did
appear on the 25 February 1970 list of paid participants. He did
not however appear on the 1970-1971 memberships AFTE
roster. He made the opening introduction at the 2d AFTE
Conference in 1970. His background expertise was questioned
documents. His service to AFTE was in the formative
stages when he assisted with the Constitution and By-Laws.
RATHMAN, William E.
Originally in 1969 he was a Firearms Examiner with the
Cincinnati Police Department. His final position was with
the Florida Department of Criminal Law Enforcement at
Sanford, Florida. He passed away in 1975. His son Garry A.
Rathman was also an AFTE member who trained under his father
until his death.
SADUNAS, John M.
Originally in 1969 he was in the Firearms Section of
the Chicago Police Department Crime Laboratory. He appeared
on Walter Howe’s February 25th, 1970 listing
of paid participants. He later withdrew his membership
application and thus did not appear on the AFTE 1970-71
roster. He received some criticism in connection with his
examination of the evidence in the aftermath of the Chicago
Police raid on Black Panther Headquarters in December 1969. He
retired from the Chicago PD in Circa 1979. He is said to have
suddenly passed away several years ago.
SMITH, Donald E. “Don”
Originally in 1969 he was in the
Firearms Section of the
Chicago Police Department Crime Laboratory.
He later retired from the Chicago PD and moved on to the
Illinois State Police
in 1987. Don
was one of the first group of 29 Distinguished
Members in 1973. He was the joint program chairman of the 1973
meeting in Chicago. In 1976 he was appointed as chairman of the
newly established “Examinations
Committee. He was later in 1978, a member of the
AFTE National Peer Group
on Certification. In 1989-1990,
was elected to AFTE
2d Vice President..
became 1st Vice President in 1990-1991. He was the 23rd
President in 1991-92.Following his term as president, he moved
on to the Board of Directors for 1992-1993. He is currently a
retired Emeritus member living in Glendale, AZ.
SMITH, Robert “Bob”J.
Originally in 1969 he was in the Firearms Section of
the Chicago Police Department Crime Laboratory. He was
elected as the 2d Treasurer at the AFTE Conference in
1970. He served as the Treasurer for several years. Bob
was one of the first group of 29 Distinguished AFTE
Members in 1973. Bob was the 2d Vice President in
1982-1983. He became the 1st Vice President in
1983-1984. In 1984-85 he became the 16th AFTE
President. He continued on to the Board of Directors in
1985-1986. He retired from the Chicago Crime Laboratory in 1996.
This is the same year he started work for the Illinois State
Police Forensic Science Center in Chicago where he is
currently employed as a Group Supervisor. He presently resides
in Orland Park, IL.
SOJAT, John G.
Originally in 1969 he was a private consultant living
at Clifton Hill, Missouri. Previously he had been in the
Firearms Section of the Chicago Police Department Crime
Laboratory for 11 years. This was followed by 8 years in the
Dade County Crime Laboratory in Miami. In circa 1971 he
returned to work in the Dade County Florida Department of Public
Safety .He served on the first Membership Committee 1969-1970.
He also served on the Board of Admissions 1970-1972. John
was one of the first group of 29 Distinguished AFTE
Members in 1973. He passed away several years ago. The Social
Security Death records show a John Sojat
passed away in the New Port Richey area of Florida in
STAUFFER, John C.
Originally in 1969 he was in the Firearms Section of
the Chicago Police Department Crime Laboratory where he was
the Supervisor. He was the first Secretary elected in 1969. He
retired from the Chicago PD Crime Laboratory in 1972 after 20
years in the Laboratory. He then started working in the
Northern Illinois Police Crime Laboratory. John was
one of the first group of 29 Distinguished AFTE Members
in 1973. He was our first Emeritus member. He is credited with
being one of the members that pushed for the first meeting that
resulted in the AFTE organization. He passed away several
WAITE, Malden D.
Originally in 1969 he was the Technical Editor of the
American Rifleman Magazine at NRA Headquarters in
Washington, D.C. He was a graduate of the University of Illinois
in 1941 and served as an officer in World War II and the Korean
War. He was one of the first group of 29 Distinguished AFTE
Members selected in 1973. In 1974 he was awarded the AFTE
Man of the Year. He died of a heart attack on April 25th,
1976 while on vacation leave from his job as Technical Editor.
He died at the early age of 59.
WARNER, Ernest “Ernie” N.
Originally in 1969 he was in the Firearms Section of
the Chicago Police Department Crime Laboratory.
He became the first AFTE Historian in 1971
and held this position until 1975. He was a frequent AFTE
Journal contributor in 1969 and the 1970s. He was also one of
the first group of 29 Distinguished AFTE Members in 1973.
He retired from the Chicago PD in 1997. He has now passed away.
WILIMOVSKY, “AL” Allen E. Sr.
Originally in 1969 he was with the Crime Laboratory Bureau of
the Wisconsin Department of Justice in Madison, WI. His
career at this laboratory dated back to 1949. His career also
embraced a 2-year period at the Fort Gordon, Georgia Crime
Laboratory. While at Wisconsin he was an understudy of
Charles M. Wilson and Joseph Wilimovsky. Al
was one of our Distinguished Members. Al served for
several years on the early AFTE Board of Admissions.
(1970-1974) He passed away on August 13, 1990.
WILIMOVSKY, Joseph “Joe” C. Jr.
Originally in 1969 he was with the Crime Laboratory
Bureau of the Wisconsin Department of Justice in Madison,
WI. The initial May 5th 1969 list
of participants contained his name, however, the February 25th,
1970 “Complete Listing of all AFTE Participants” no longer
listed his name. He is not listed on the detailed membership
roster for 1970-1971. He never made the transition from initial
participant to regular member. His early career was a
distinguished one. He started out with the Cook County
Coroner’s Office in Chicago. He later became an assistant to
Calvin Goddard in his Crime Detection Laboratory at
Northwestern University. He passed away on 16 July 1976 as a
victim of a form of cancer. He was Allan Wilimovsky’s
WILSON, Charles “Charlie” M.
Originally in February 1969 he was Director of the
Crime Laboratory Bureau of the Wisconsin Department of Justice
in Madison, WI. His career dated back to 1930 when he joined the
staff of the Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory at
Northwestern University in Chicago. In 1938 when the Crime
Laboratory was transferred to the Chicago Police Department,
Wilson also transferred. In 1947 he resigned from the
Chicago Police Laboratory to accept the job of establishing a
new Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory. He was the first AFTE
Treasurer during the 1969-1970 year. In July of 1969 he resigned
from the laboratory and became a private consulting criminalist
residing in Madison, WI. He passed away in Madison on 14 August
1973. (See earlier notes.)
WOLFER, DeWayne Allan.
Originally in 1969 he was in the Firearms Section of
the Los “Angeles Police Crime Laboratory. Wolfer was
also Assistant Professor at California State College. He
was elected to the first Executive Committee for 1970-71. He
served as the Program Chairman for the 3rd AFTE
Conference (1971) in Phoenix. He was Vice President in
1971-1972. He was one of the first group of 29 Distinguished
AFTE Members in 1973. He later received some critical
attention in regard to his part in the Robert Kennedy
assassination investigation. He handled the firearms evidence
examinations for Los Angeles Criminalistics Laboratory and later
testified at Sirhan’s trial. My last recall of seeing Mr.
Wolfer was in November 1975 when he was seated as a
spectator at the rear of the Judge Robert A. Wenke’s Los
Angeles, CA Superior Court Room. At the time I was giving
testimony as a part of the open court hearings on the results of
the re--examination of the Robert Kennedy Assassination
Stanton O. Berg
(February 2004, Minneapolis,