PERRIS, Calif. — Like most good news, it came completely out of the blue.
The Riverside Sheriff's Department called Kim Rhode late Tuesday night to inform her that they had recovered the shotgun she had used throughout her record-setting shooting career.
The gun was, according to officials, seized during a routine parole inspection of Gregorio Macias, 22 of Perris. When officers inspected the convicted felon's residence, they recovered guns and methamphetamines. A check of the serial number (84961, incidentally) on the gun in a case under his bed revealed it had been stolen and led to a call to Riverside investigators.
Stolen from her truck on Sept. 11, 2008, that gun had been a constant companion in Rhode's entire competition shooting career. It had been used in each of her four Olympic medal-winning performances.
Speaking with the media at the time of the theft, a tearful Rhode said "there's just no words to describe what the gun means to me ... a part of me. I've traveled all over the world with it."
Now, it appears they will once again be traveling together.
The journey that Rhode's Perazzi MX12 took from the time it was stolen from her truck in a Lake Elsinore outlet center until its recovery Tuesday is not yet known. Riverside sheriff's officers continue the investigation, hoping to track down the two other men in a dark red Ford Expedition they believe smashed a window in Rhode's truck and grabbed her gun.
According to police officials, Macias has offered no assistance in the investigation, although he is believed to have been associated with the two other men police are seeking.
Considering the fact he was caught with firearms, including another with the serial numbers removed, and methamphetamines, there may be a chance Macias may offer information to authorities in an attempt to improve his own chances in the justice system.
Rhode, meanwhile, says she has no ill will toward the man, saying "there's always hope" that he can be rehabilitated. If the gun had been damaged, however, she laughingly said "that might have been another story."
"I'm so ecstatic," she told me, "it's in perfect condition and in the original case. Other than the stickers having been taken off and a lock broken on the case, it's immaculate."
When she got word late Tuesday night that her gun had been recovered, Rhode said it made for a long night.
"I didn't get much sleep," she confessed, "I was in shock and disbelief. It's been with me from the get-go," Rhode said, "It's a part of me. Every nick or dent triggers a memory."
According to Rhode, officers simply refused to let the case die.
"The original investigator (Inspector Charles Donivan)" she said, "had never given up and has gone over and over photos and videos from the truck and the parking lot, and, well, he kept it alive."
Rhode was also quick to give the entire outdoor community credit for "stepping up" and getting the word out about the theft.
She remains convinced that spreading of the word about the shotgun was instrumental in its safe return.
"Everyone was great about getting the word out and being so supportive, it helped me get through it all," she said.
Rhode said she will not return a gun that had been given to her to replace her stolen one.
"Everyone stepped up to get me that gun," Kim laughed, "and I plan to use it, along with my old gun. I'm thinking I'll never have just a single gun again."
Besides, the guns are missing the stickers that Rhode had collected from her numerous competition wins.
"I'm planning on getting more stickers," she said, "and I plan to include one from London (the next Olympics). This has helped me decide that for the next Olympics, I'm sure going for it."