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ANDREW TOBIAS

Staff Writer

A 26-year-old Columbus man this week admitted to stealing two handguns from a Powell shooting range, including one that was used to shoot at a Columbus police officer.

Robert W. Phillips, of 186 N. Ogden Ave., faces up to 10 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to a single count of grand theft. As part of a plea deal, prosecutors agreed to dismiss a second grand theft charge as well as a forgery charge.

Phillips is scheduled to be sentenced on July 18.

Using a fake name, Phillips last February rented two semi-automatic pistols — a Springfield 9-millimeter and a Glock .40 caliber — from the Powder Room in Powell. The store’s surveillance footage showed Phillips firing off some rounds in the store’s shooting range, according to prosecutors. Phillips then told the clerk he was going to his car in the parking lot to get more ammunition. He never returned, taking the handguns with him

One of the stolen guns was used the next month by a 17-year-old in a shootout with a Columbus police officer; a bullet from the gun hit the officer’s taser. The officer was unharmed.

Prosecutors aren’t sure how the gun made its way from Phillips to the teenager.

“We only know what (Phillips) told us, which is he sold it to some guy on the street. We don’t know beyond taking his word for that,” assistant prosecutor Kyle Rohrer said.

Kevin Miles, president of Crime Stoppers, criticized the shooting range’s staff over the incident, questioning how a customer was able to walk out of the Powder Room with two guns without showing any identification. Gun ranges are not required to ask for ID, but Powell police say it is a good business practice.

Owner Bill Dixon told the Gazette in March that his business had used the same system to sign out guns for 38 years without any problems with theft.

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