MOUNT STERLING, Ky. (LEX 18) — An LEX 18 investigation has led to Mount Sterling city officials taking a closer look at the Mount Sterling Police Department's police-issued equipment bought by taxpayers and military equipment loaned to the department. Kentucky State Police confirm it is investigating whether police-issued weapons may have been mismanaged in a military program at the police department.
State Police report its inquiry began when it learned about allegations that gun parts may have been improperly removed and traded to civilians. A Montgomery County man told police a lifelong friend, who works at the Mt. Sterling Police Department, owed him money for an ATV but instead gave him a rare and collectible upper receiver from an M-16 rifle to settle a debt.
Through public police records, LEX 18 tracked down Michael Johnson, who, at first, was hesitant to speak with us about Sergeant Jason Perry. Johnson told Kentucky State Police Perry gave him the receiver in the fall of 2018, but six months later, Johnson said Perry wanted it back. "I received a text message that they were doing inventory, and he needed it back for his inventory, and once that was over, he would get it straight back to me," says Johnson.
Johnson showed us a text message he claims Perry sent him. It reads, "I need ur upper back for little bit. There doing inventory Monday. I'll get it back to you." According to a Kentucky State Police investigation report, a detective documented he saw that text on Johnson's phone.
Johnson said he returned the upper receiver to Perry but stated the officer didn't return his ATV. LEX 18 obtained the January 31, 2020 police report Johnson filed at the Kentucky State Police post in Morehead against Perry over the four-wheeler. In a lengthy Kentucky State Police investigation report, Johnson told about more than the ATV complaint. In the State Police paperwork, Johnson told the detective the Mount Sterling officer was taking gun parts from inventory and had given him an M-16 upper receiver instead of the money Perry allegedly owed Johnson.
Sgt. Perry disputes Johnson's claims in the same detailed KSP report. The detective wrote that in an interview, Perry told him he did give Johnson an upper receiver but said it didn't have anything to do with the money he owed Johnson for the ATV. The report documents that Perry told the detective he let Johnson know the upper receiver belonged to the department, and they couldn't get rid of them or sell them, and further in the report stated he told Johnson the department had to keep them for inventory purposes. According to the investigation report, Perry called Johnson's allegations a "civil" matter. Both had agreed they were even on the ATV after Perry told the detective he did work for Johnson.
LEX 18 has tried repeatedly to contact Sgt. Perry to ask him directly about Johnson's allegations and allow him to tell his side of the story in his own words. Perry has not contacted us. Through an open records request to the City of Mount Sterling, we obtained information from Perry's personnel file at the police department. A department memo stated Sgt. Perry was awarded the Officers Medal for going "beyond the normal call of duty" and saving the life of a person in 2012 who threatened to commit suicide. His files also included dozens of police training certificates. A police memo dated 9/28/2020 showed Sgt. Perry is the supervisor over the Mount Sterling Police Department Armory and Firearm Instruction. Another memo stated Perry was promoted from Patrol Officer to Sergeant on November 15, 2019.
When we attempted to ask Mount Sterling Mayor Al Botts about the allegations involving Perry and the confirmation that Kentucky State Police were also looking into whether police-issued weapons may have been mismanaged in a military program at the police department, Botts sent an email stating, “It is our understanding that there is an open investigation into this allegation being conducted by the KSP. We found out about this investigation when we inquired with KSP after speaking with you last week." The mayor continued to stress that the City of Mount Sterling and the Mount Sterling PD will cooperate fully. He said he also ordered a count of the department's police-issued equipment and military equipment.