Divers find weapons in the Chattahoochee River

By Taylor Barnhill  - bio | email | Twitter

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -  We always have stories in the news about police or sheriff's deputies conducting criminal investigations on land, but the crime scene we take you to is underwater.

News Leader 9 dove the Chattahoochee River as part of an underwater criminal investigation.

When a crime moves from land to water, the entire investigation changes, that's why this group of divers is training to look for evidence below the surface.

Underwater Criminal Investigation Instructor Mike Berry said, "There is a need for a highly trained dive team that can carry on a criminal investigation. That's what UCI does, we come to police, fire, volunteer teams, sheriff departments and we teach them how to carry underwater criminal investigations."

After classroom work and practice diving in a controlled area, the divers were sent to the Chattahoochee River to collect real evidence.

"Often times you might think a lot of evidence is destroyed once it's crossed that barrier, but a lot of evidence is still recoverable," said UCI dive graduate Jamie Lethiecq.

Berry added, "We take them to the water and prove to them how these techniques work. Instead of pretending how to recover one, they actually recover them. Every weapon and everything that came out of the water today, it was collected and turned over to the sheriff's department. It was criminal evidence that someone used and threw off the bridge or that walkway."

During the open water dive they brought up an old cash register, a pair of bolt cutters and a handgun.

Then came the biggest find of the day. Lethiecq explained, "We discovered we had a much larger weapon, a rifle with a scope attached, and after going to the surface, letting them know, descending and getting the weapon, we bring it to the surface so they could process it for evidence."

These divers completed this course in preparation for joining the Russell County Sheriff's Department Dive Team.

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