A look inside South Bend's firearm and tool mark section
SOUTH BEND, Ind.- Saturday marks the 16th anniversary of the day Ray Wolfenbarger was shot after attempting a traffic stop.On December 16, 2001 Wolfenbarger, a firearm and tool mark examiner in South Bend was shot while on duty.
“If it wasn’t for him they would have had to build the case a little bit differently. The guy that shot me actually was the gun that was found ID’d to the casings and then also the bullets from the scene,” says Wolfenbarger.
Wolfenbarger works behind these doors inside police headquarters and is often focused on these microscope lenses.
“A firearm examiner is someone who by the use of this comparison microscope examines bullets, casings and unfired cartridges,” he says.
Wolfenbarg determines what types of firearms were used in specific crimes. This year he’s worked on 430 cases. Last year, the team had 546.
“You get casings and bullets and that’s it. It’s my job to examine that and give a list of gun that could have fired those.”
With the help of a $100,000 microscope and more than 600 reference guns, Wolfenbarger is able to provide details and get that list together.
But that doesn’t mean that’s when the case closes, “It’s up to the investigators, it’s up to the prosecutors and everyone to place that gun in an individual’s hands,” says Wolfenbarger. “All I can say is was that gun on the scene. I can’t tell you who had the gun.”
Depending on what happened the night before, Wolfenbarger and his team make sure to prioritize investigations.
“For instance officer involved cases, homicide cases that have no leads then we can work hand and hand with the investigators and try to get them information.”
This lab uses the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network to see if there is a history with what they have their eyes on.
Other than that, Wolfenbarger is on a case by case basis all around Michiana.
“Depending on what case we’re working on that day we finish that case and then we go to the next case. We do Elkhart and LaPorte County too,” he says.
Wolfenbarger currently has a team of three. He says it's time to add more eyes inside the lab to be able to work efficiently and bounce ideas and evidence off of each other.
A new examiner is set to start by the beginning of next year.