A loaded handgun found in a storm drain by small children playing in an upscale Bettendorf neighborhood has been returned to its owner, Police Chief Phil Redington said Tuesday.

The children were playing in the street with a remote control motorcycle when they spotted the gun about 11 a.m. Friday in the storm drain in front of their home in the 3300 block of Marynoel Avenue, according to a police report.

Redington said the elementary-school-age children could not reach the gun and never were in danger. The revolver was retrieved by police.

The gun, a stainless steel Smith & Wesson .357 hammerless revolver, did not show up as being reported stolen in a National Crime Information Center index, according to the report.

After the neighborhood started buzzing about the discovery, nearby resident Mark Bartholomew contacted Bettendorf police Monday and said he believed the handgun belonged to him. Redington said police confirmed he was the owner of the gun by its serial number and type of specific cartridges that were loaded in it, including five rounds of Federal .38 Plus P rounds of hollow point ammunition.

Bartholomew had a gun permit, Redington said.

Bartholomew declined Tuesday to comment on how the gun may have ended up in the storm drain. Although a Quad-City Times news story a year ago described Bartholomew as a special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, he would not confirm his employment with the agency on Tuesday, saying “my position does not allow me to talk to the press.”

According to the police report, Bartholomew told police that he recently had misplaced the gun and thought it would eventually turn up. He said he was not sure how it could have ended up in the storm drain and any scenario would be speculation only, according to the report.

Redington said there had been a rash of car burglaries in the area during the time the gun turned up missing.

The children’s father told police he had inspected the storm drain during the summer and had not noticed any gun then.

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