Former Reed aide used city funds to buy machine guns, investigation reveals

ATLANTA — An investigation by Channel 2 Action News and our partners at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has found that a one-time senior aide to former Mayor Kasim Reed used city money to purchase two machine guns, which did not go to the Atlanta Police Department.

Jim Beard was Reed's chief financial officer for six years and a close adviser to the mayor.

Federal authorities subpoenaed records about Beard's tenure in June. Among those were records of gun purchases.

“It's pretty shocking, actually,” former federal prosecutor Caren Morrison said about the startling new information. “He's the CFO. He doesn't need this. No private individual needs this.”

The federal subpoena revealed that federal authorities were interested in two AR-15s, two Glock handguns and two expensive sights.

But when Channel 2 and the AJC dug deeper, it was discovered that the AR-15s were far deadlier and probably illegal.

An invoice from December 2015 includes the CFO's name and identifies the weapons as fully automatic.


Federal tax documents put it concisely, calling the weapons machine guns. Morrison said possession of those is against the law except in rare circumstances.

“The feds have plenty to go on,” she said.

Another name in the records is that of Atlanta police Officer R. Rivers.

A city spokesman told Channel 2 and the AJC:

"The detective was interviewed by the authorities, and he attested to the fact that his name was used without his knowledge."

Emails obtained by Channel 2 and the AJC document that Reed's chief financial officer first ordered the weapons in late 2015 and was quite anxious about getting them.

In February of 2016, Beard emailed the manufacturer: “Are we still on track for mid-March?”

Two weeks later, Beard wrote: "Can you expedite the shipping?"

In a federal tax document, Beard certified that the weapons would be for the exclusive use of the Atlanta Police Department.

But the Police Department didn't get the machine guns for two years.

In early 2018, Beard took the AR-15s to police headquarters and asked the department to hold them.

He never returned to pick them up.

In March of this year, police opened the gun cases.

By June, the federal grand jury investigating the Atlanta corruption scandal subpoenaed the weapons records.

“I just think it's one more thing. It's just, pretty much, there's nothing they haven't thought of,” Morrison said.

“We're in the wake of the latest couple of mass shootings, one of which, in my home town, the murder weapon was a weapon very much like this, except his was semi-auto. Mr. Beard evidently had two full autos,” said Howard Shook of the Atlanta City Council.

Beard's attorney said, “Mr. Beard has never had personal possession of a fully automatic firearm. At most he signed for them when they came in for city use in his official role.”

The city says the machine guns are now at the FBI.