A decorated military veteran who sold firearms without a license — including the Glock used to kill Chicago Police Cmdr. Paul Bauer — was sentenced Thursday to about three years in prison in federal court in Wisconsin.
Thomas Caldwell, 68, has significant physical and mental health challenges and has ended his obsession with guns, according to his attorney. Still, the feds say he had been warned by authorities to stop selling weapons without a license.
He refused to fill out an application for a Federal Firearms License because it was “too much paperwork,” prosecutors said.
“Caldwell did not kill Chicago Police Commander Bauer and he should not (be) held accountable for doing so,” First Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy O’Shea wrote in a memo filed Tuesday with the court in Madison. “The way Caldwell sold firearms, however, made a tragedy almost inevitable.”
Bauer, 53, was headed to City Hall in Chicago on Feb. 13 when he heard over his handheld police radio that a man had fled from officers nearby. Bauer saw the man and ran after him. He pursued the man down a Thompson Center staircase, they struggled and Bauer was shot.
Shomari Legghette was arrested moments later as he left the staircase.
Caldwell pleaded guilty in September to selling firearms without a license. Though his attorney said he is a patriot who is ashamed to have broken the law, “society won’t remember his honorable service. Nor will it remember his decades of courageous struggle with mental illness.”
“Instead, his digital legacy will connect him forever with the death of Chicago Police Department Commander Paul Bauer,” defense attorney Peter Moyers wrote in his own memo.
Moyers asked U.S. District Judge James Peterson to give Caldwell probation and resist any desire to seek retribution. He noted that Legghette allegedly shot Bauer with a gun Caldwell had sold to another person.
“The temptation to punish Caldwell for Commander Bauer’s homicide is profound,” Moyers wrote. “Worse still is the temptation to punish Caldwell for it because no one else has been punished for it yet.”
Moyers said Caldwell has already been humiliated. But O’Shea said 13 of the guns he sold wound up at crime scenes.
“Guns, in the hands of dangerous people, are dangerous forever,” O’Shea wrote.