Apollo police chief jailed in gun thefts

| Thursday, July 12, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Authorities arrested Apollo police Chief Paul Breznican on charges of selling guns, ammunition and other weapons, including a semiautomatic rifle the borough bought with federal money.

Breznican, 52, on leave for a job-related injury and then suspended in June when state police began investigating, surrendered on Wednesday to troopers in East Franklin. He was jailed on $25,000 bail, which Leechburg District Judge James Andring set for four felony theft charges.

“Our intention is to mount a vigorous defense to these charges,” said Breznican's attorney, Greg Swank. His client is confident he did nothing wrong, Swank added.

Armstrong County District Attorney Scott Andreassi said he announced the arrest “with a heavy heart.”

“Such actions are egregious when committed by any citizen but are especially egregious when committed by someone entrusted to uphold the law,” Andreassi said.

In the complaint, investigators accused Breznican of:

• Selling a Colt AR 15 rifle, which the borough purchased with a 2007 federal grant, and ammunition to a Kiski Township man for $700 in 2010.

• Confiscating a .30-30 rifle and a 12-gauge shotgun from an Apollo man whose family worried about his mental state and selling those weapons in May 2006 to Bee's Guns in Bell Township in Westmoreland County.

• Selling a .22-caliber rifle, a tear gas gun and a tear gas baton — all borough property — to RWS Arms in Apollo.

Apollo Mayor Rich Dixon suspended Breznican when the allegations became public. Borough council continued his paid suspension indefinitely. Breznican has been off duty, collecting workers' compensation for an on-the-job injury.

It is not the first time Breznican has drawn controversy in the town of about 1,700.

He won a council seat as a write-in candidate with two others in November, but council kept him from claiming the seat in January, claiming his job as police chief created a conflict. A judge sided with the borough, ruling Breznican cannot hold both positions.

Breznican sparred with former borough Manager Lori Weig-Tamasy, whom he wanted to remove as manager. Apollo's manager oversees the police department, and a council position would place Breznican in authority over his supervisor, the judge noted.

Weig-Tamasy left the borough job in mid-June, accepting a settlement.

Breznican is appealing to the state Supreme Court, which hears election matters. But the state's new borough code that will take effect on Monday prohibits police officers from holding elected office in a borough employing them.

State police began investigating Breznican when Weig-Tamasy's boyfriend, Mark Ford, told troopers in early June that firearms were missing from the police department.

Brian Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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