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How did Timothy Olin walk out of Total Firearms in Mason with the stolen gun police say he used in the murder-suicide at Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts store in March?
To try to find out, City Pulse last week separately sent two people, a man and a woman, to the same gun shop.
What they discovered was that — perhaps like Olin — they were left unattended, each with a rented handgun, in the room housing Total Firearms’ firing range. They also found that neither door to the firing range was locked while they were inside.
Again perhaps like Olin, they could have slipped a gun into their clothes and walked out, as authorities say he did, eluding the security camera set up on the entry.
On March 26, Olin, 30, rented a semiautomatic handgun at Total Firearms, 1380 N.
Cedar St., in Mason, according to Lansing Township police Chief Adam Kline. Olin would have taken the gun in a box into the firing range. There, police said, Olin practiced using it. Then he walked out of Total Firearms with the gun undetected still in his possession and went to Jo-Ann’s at 3750 Saginaw Highway in Lansing Township, where police said he killed Rachel Renee Duncan, 25, and then himself.
Of the two people City Pulse sent to Total Firearms, one was an experienced shooter with a military background who had fired weapons at Total Firearms before. The other had fired guns a few times but not at Total Firearms.
Both presented legal identification and were told to identify themselves as being from City Pulse if asked why they were there. But neither was asked.
The less experienced shooter, a 54-yearold woman, presented herself to a clerk at the front desk, requesting that she be rented a gun. She filled out paperwork and then selected the gun and ammunition, for which she paid.
As a new user, she was given safety training by the range safety officer, or RSO. She described the safety training as “thorough.”
An employee brought her gun in a case into the firing range and gave it to the range safety officer, who removed it and gave it to her.
While she was firing the gun, she said, the RSO left the range “a couple of times” for four or five minutes each, affording her the opportunity to conceal the gun and leave, had she wanted. Instead, she left the gun on the shooting bench — the shelf she stood behind to fire — and departed.
In the case of the other person sent by City Pulse, he and a friend rented guns.
Both were ex-military and had used the range before. Their gun was presented to the RSO, who removed it from the case. The weapon was left in an open position with the empty ammunition magazine beside it.
The individual, 24, said the RSO left but was “just outside the door” greeting another group of shooters.
He said the RSO was “very unattentive” while in the range.
“I’ve never seen an RSO leave a range like that, ever. I have never been on a public range where an RSO left, ever. Civilian or military, it’s never happened.”
Both said the RSO was present when they finished and left their guns on the bench.
Both agreed that had they wanted to forsake their IDs, which were kept at the counter while they were on the firing range, they could have left the store without being noticed, possibly with concealed weapons.
That’s important because Olin did precisely that, according to Chief Kline. He said someone from Total Firearms called authorities later that fateful day after it was discovered that a gun was missing — but didn’t leave a message. The next day, authorities went to the store to ask why a gun registered to Total Firearms was used in the murder-suicide, Kline said.
“We appreciate being made aware of these security issues,” said Walter White, an attorney for the gun store. “We are taking steps to address them.”
Federal and state laws do not require a range safety officer to remain on the range at all times. However, training materials from the United States Army as well as from the National Rifle Association available online show that RSOs are to remain at the range at all times during use.
There is a double door entry into the six-lane shooting range. The first door is a hollow core interior door, the second steel. Neither is locked, the two reported, but there is video set up on the steel door entry.
The gun store and range has come under increasing scrutiny after Olin went there, Chief Kline said.
In July 2016, convicted felon Darnell Wardlaw walked into Total Firearms and rented a gun using his Michigan Department of Corrections prisoner identification card. As Wardlaw was shooting on the range, employees realized the identification card was for a prisoner, not a corrections officer and called law enforcement.
Wardlaw was convicted of a second count of felon in possession of a firearm and is in prison until 2022.
Kline said that while the firearms dealer was not going to face criminal prosecution, federal authorities were reviewing the company’s federal firearms license. Federal authorities directed the dealer to clamp down on its rentals, Kline said. Now, staff carry the gun, in cases into the range when they are rented. Renters are only allowed one weapon at a time as well. The staff of the gun store return the gun to stock when a renter is done.