A Hudson Police Officer kept four guns – including an unregistered pistol – stashed in Hudson’s vacant former police station for more than a year.
The guns were found in an open locker by other HPD officers in September 2018.
The incident led to an internal affairs investigation of the officer, Jacob “Jake” Hoffman, by the HPD. The Other Hudson Valley received much of the resulting internal report after filing a request through the state Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).
Hoffman’s old locker was spotted, open, in the vacant HPD station on Warren Street by HPD Chief Edward Moore and Lt. David Miller on Sept. 6, 2018, according to the internal affairs report.
In the locker, along with numerous personal items including pictures of Hoffman’s family, the officers found four guns: A Romanian SKS semi-automatic rifle with a bayonet; a loaded .25 caliber semi-automatic handgun; a WWI-era bolt-action rifle; a .357 Magnum revolver; and 4 boxes of .40 caliber handgun rounds, according to the report.
The HPD checked to see if the two handguns were registered on Hoffman’s pistol permit, as is required by state law. The Magnum was not, according to the report.
In fact, the Magnum had never been registered in New York state, according to the report. Background traces found the gun had never been reported stolen or missing. The last recorded sale of the gun was in October 1989 from a gun shop in Adams, Massachusetts, according to a summation of one of the traces in the report.
The HPD launched an internal affairs investigation and Hoffman was interviewed four days later, on September 10.
Hoffman admitted the locker was his, according to interview notes from the investigating officer. Hoffman said he continued to store items such as his uniform shirt and jacket there because he did not have a locker at the new police station, though he also added he had not been to the old locker since about July 2017 – 14 months before the guns were discovered.
When asked about the unregistered Magnum, Hoffman stated a woman he had worked with at a department store gave it to him about six years ago, which would have been several years after Hoffman became a Hudson police officer. The co-worker and her father had moved from Massachusetts to New York, and the gun was discovered after the father’s death, at which point the daughter asked Hoffman to take it, according to the interview notes. Hoffman than asked if he could keep the gun.
“I didn’t know what to do without getting in trouble,” according to the notes of Hoffman’s interview. “As time went by I got more and more nervous about how do I not get in trouble for this.”
Failure to register a handgun on one’s pistol permit is a misdemeanor in New York State. After the state SAFE Act was enacted in January 2013, it also became a misdemeanor to sell or gift someone a gun without running their information through a background check at a licensed gun dealer. Hoffman said he received the Magnum about six years before it was found in his locker – around the time of the SAFE Act’s passage – and it is therefore unclear whether or not a background check was yet legally required.
When asked where the WWI-era rifle came from, Hoffman said he did not know.
“Who’s (sic) long guns where (sic) in your locker?” the interviewing officer asked, according to their notes.
“I don’t know about the other gun (WWI rifle), SKS is mine. Both are mine – don’t know where I got it,” Hoffman responded, according to the notes.
This was the second time in the interview Hoffman claimed to not know how he got the rifle. When asked what guns were found in his locker, Hoffman said there were three, listing the two handguns and the SKS, but failing to mention the WWI rifle. He said he did not know where he acquired the WWI rifle when the investigating officer pointed out two long guns were found.
Hoffman also claimed he had secured the locker with a keyed padlock, but the locker was found unlocked, and there is no mention of missing items or forced entry into the locker in the internal affairs report.
As well as two misdemeanors, the incident potentially calls into play state laws about the safe storage of weapons. For instance, it is a misdemeanor for anyone to leave a firearm out of one’s direct control at home if they live with a child under the age of 16, according to state law.
Since Hoffman did not temporarily leave his gun at home, but instead in a vacant municipal building in the middle of a small city within 1,000 feet of an elementary school for more than a year, it is unclear what, if any, state laws would apply.
Hoffman was not criminally charged. The internal investigation concluded in August 2019, nearly a year after the guns were discovered, and found Hoffman had violated 10 HPD policies, for which the officer received a written reprimand from Chief Moore and was suspended for 14 days without pay. Hoffman made about $84,000 that year, according to a payroll database maintained by the Empire Center for Public Policy, putting the lost wages at about $3,500.
This was the second internal investigation to be opened on Hoffman in 2018. That summer, he was investigated while serving as Hudson’s School Resource Officer for regularly leaving the city in his own car to take care of personal business while he was supposed to be on-duty in Hudson’s schools.
Hoffman lost five vacation days as a penalty, according to the internal investigation, and was relieved as the School Resource Officer, though he continued to serve at the HPD.
Mayor Kamal Johnson, who in July signed an executive order ordering reforms to the Hudson Police Department, said he was never informed by the HPD about the internal affairs investigation into the guns, or about any part of the incident, either as Mayor or when on the city’s Common Council.
Johnson was elected to the Common Council in 2017 and took office at the beginning of 2018. He served as the Chair of the Common Council’s Police Committee while the internal affairs investigation was going on and took office as Mayor at the beginning of 2020, about five months after the investigation concluded.
The internal affairs reports were part of a larger FOIL request from The Other Hudson Valley seeking personnel complaints against HPD officers and the resulting investigations. Disciplinary records of police officers in New York were shielded from the public and the media by state law until June 2020, when a package of police reform bills was signed into law.
Part of The Other Hudson Valley’s FOIL request was filled and part of it was denied by the HPD.
Chief Moore declined comment, stating that although the new state laws allowed the public and reporters to FOIL personnel records of police, he believes he still cannot comment on his officers’ personnel matters.
Hoffman continues to serve as an HPD officer.
CORRECTION; An earlier version of this article misidentified Officer Jake Hoffman’s current position in the HPD. Though he formerly served as the HPD’s School Resource Officer, he now is a patrol officer.