ST. JOSEPH — Two Tommy guns are still garnering attention more than 80 years after the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department added the weapons to its armory.
Lt. Mike Kline, who maintains the guns, said they are one of the most famous firearms in the world.
"These are pieces of history," Kline, pointing to the guns, said.
"He was one of the most notorious killers in the 20s," Kline said of Burke.
The department then sent the guns to Calvin Goddard, a Chicago ballistic and forensic expert.
His investigation linked the weapons to a major crime scene: the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.
Kline said executioners fired 70 rounds of ammunition from the Tommy guns on Feb. 14, 1929. Seven members of Capone’s rival gang were killed.
"To this day, no one was ever convicted," Kline said. "To this day, it’s an unsolved murder."
The lieutenant gives 50 to 60 presentations a year to authors, high school students, local historical societies, gun collectors and others interested in the historical significance of the guns and their connection to Berrien County.
Last week in Chicago, Kline showcased the Tommy guns during a convention of the Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners.
Kline said the National Geographic cable channel will air a documentary featuring the weapons in a September documentary.
"There’s still huge interest in these things," he said.
Kline said the weapons, made in 1921, are fully functional and fired occasionally for maintenance.
He estimated their value at about $1 million each.
"A lot of them aren’t around anymore," Kline said.
What led Berrien County officers to the Tommy guns?
On the way to picking up his wife at the train station, "Killer" Burke was involved in a fender bender in St. Joseph in December 1929, Kline said.
The hit man, known as Fred Dane locally, fled from the wreck until a St. Joseph police officer, Charles Skelly, pulled him over.