Career Center students construct gun case for City of Warren police

A Thompson submachine gun is on display at the City of Warren Police Department in a display case custom made by Warren County Career Center welding students, Warren Tire Center, and Warren Glass.

The Thompson submachine gun has a long and colorful history.

Developed initially for use clearing the trenches of World War I, the weapon was a few days too late to see fighting in that war. But, it held on and was used by U.S. troops through World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, and by forces from many nations in many conflicts.

The “Tommy gun” was also popular among civilians and law enforcement and became famous as an instrument of both the gangsters and the law men of the prohibition era.

By 1977, the U.S. government had a lot of them it didn’t need and was handing them out to law enforcement agencies to help fight crime.

The City of Warren received one of the .45-caliber guns with a 50-round drum magazine.

“It was given to us in 1977 as military surplus,” City of Warren Police Sgt. Brandon Deppen said. “The department has had it ever since.”

The weapon spent most of that 40 years in the department vault.

“Chief (Ray) Zydonik decided that he would like to display it,” Deppen said.

But the weapon is valuable and still in working order.

Zydonik contacted Warren County Career Center Welding Teacher Nate McNett, who found two students would wanted to work on creating a display case.

“The chief came to the career center with the idea of building a case for the tommy gun,” Jeremy Carlson said. “I said I was interested.”

Alex Keller also volunteered.

They worked on the project off and on for about two months, creating the frame for a display case out of mild steel using both TIG and MIG welding.

“It was a really good learning experience,” McNett said. “There was a lot of problem solving. Whenever you custom build anything there are always issues.”

The frame was powder coated by Warren Tire Center.

With glass, provided and installed by Warren Glass, the case weighs about 80 pounds.

The case includes a lockable door and two stands that hold the gun in the proper position.

An LED light may be added to the display, Deppen said.

Police expect to bolt the case to a concrete wall in the department hallway just off of the municipal building rotunda where it will be visible to groups touring the department and other visitors.