Ex-head of police gun unit is found dead before scheduled questioning

Philly.com – by Stephanie Farr, Mark Fazlollah, and Jeremy Roebuck

The former commander of the Philadelphia Police Department’s Firearms Identification Unit died of an apparent suicide Wednesday, a day before he was scheduled to face questions from prosecutors about thefts from the department, law enforcement officials said.

A police spokeswoman confirmed that Lt. Vincent J. Testa, 53, who worked in North Philadelphia’s 39th District, was found unresponsive at his residence by his girlfriend Wednesday morning. Police declined to release a cause of death but said that there were no signs of foul play.  

Testa’s ex-wife said he told her a few weeks ago that the police department took away his police-issued gun, although no charges had been filed against him. The department generally takes guns away from police who are to be fired.

Officials who asked that their names not be used said Testa committed suicide the day before he was supposed to appear at the District Attorney’s Office for questioning about thefts several years ago from the Firearms Identification Unit when he was the unit’s commander.

phillypolice_small Ex-head of police gun unit is found dead before scheduled questioning

The thefts were first reported by the Daily News in 2011. Then-Commissioner Charles Ramsey moved Testa from his command of the unit, and one of Testa’s subordinates retired after allegedly admitting that he had stolen weapons parts.

Ramsey also asked the U.S. Department of Justice to audit the firearms unit. That audit found that numerous guns were missing.

esta’s former wife, Donna, said in an interview Wednesday that her ex-husband had been worried about the investigation.

“He was very upset, anxious and not able to eat because, he said, he didn’t know what was going on,” she said. “He thought that it might be related to what happened in 2011.”

She called Testa “a wonderful, wonderful guy – and that’s coming from an ex-wife.”