Street corner competition for Wilkinsburg police gun buyback program; constable from Harmony Township cited


A man identified as an elected constable faces a citation and potential fine of up to $600 for allegedly trying to buy guns from people on the street as they were entering the Wilkinsburg Police Department for its annual gun buyback program.

Wilkinsburg police say Michael Cornell, of Harmony Township, Butler County, is being sent the citation by mail for allegedly violating Wilkinsburg’s peddling ordinance. Police say they will notify and consult with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to determine whether any other charges should be pursued. Police will also review surveillance video to see if it appears Cornell was successful in purchasing any guns on the street.  

Wilkinsburg’s gun buyback was so successful that it was extended from Saturday to Monday after police ran out of gift certificates being used to pay for the guns.

Police Chief Ophelia “Cookie” Coleman wasn’t happy to learn a man had been approaching people outside the police department for guns.

“That was very disturbing, and it was disturbing to the people that were in line as well because they were complaining about this person walking up to them, soliciting to purchase guns,” Coleman told Pittsburgh’s Action News 4.

Detective Michael Catanzaro said a woman first alerted police to the man who approached her.

“He asked to see the weapons. She denied to show him and stated that he was buying guns back and would give her more,” Catanzaro told Pittsburgh’s Action News 4.

A man who brought weapons to the buyback alerted police that it happened to him, too.

“He was also approached outside by the same man on Saturday, and he refused to sell him the firearms,” Coleman said. “He stated to him, ‘No, I am giving them to the police.'”

Catanzaro, Coleman and another officer approached the man who was trying to buy guns on the street.

“(We) identified ourselves and asked what he was doing up front,” Catanzaro said. “He stated that he was not breaking the law, that he was a gun collector and wished to purchase firearms from persons coming to the gun buyback.”

The detective said Cornell initially refused to identify himself but did so when asked if he had a borough license for his activity.

“Upon opening his wallet to retrieve his ID, I noticed a badge and he identified himself as a constable,” Catanzaro said.

Wilkinsburg police bought back 114 guns on Saturday and at least 20 more by mid-afternoon on Monday. The weapons will be checked to see if they were stolen. If so, they’ll be returned to the rightful owner. If not, they will be melted down.

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