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Former NOPD marksman now builds precision weapons

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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

He is a former NOPD sniper - one of the marksmen who helped bring down one of New Orleans most notorious criminals. Now he makes a weapon that might have made a difference in one of the city's darkest chapters.

"Alright guys, the line is hot," said Tom Casey as he set his sights set on the future while thinking about his past. 

Casey was on the firing line when a lone gunman held New Orleans hostage. The former NOPD sharpshooter was one of the first volunteers called to try and take out sniper Mark Essex during his 1973 killing spree atop the old Howard Johnson hotel.

"They had the chief of police, the mayor, and said we need volunteers to get on the helicopter," Casey said.

He said they were promised, that it was bulletproof. It was not.

When the call went out, they didn't have true sniper rifles for officers. Many, including Casey, went home and got guns out of their closet and took positions on surrounding buildings.

"People on the roof had hunting rifles - store-bought hunting rifles," he said.

The NOPD eventually gunned down Essex, but not before the former sailor killed nine people, including five police officers.

"When it was all over, he had hundreds of bullets in him. Everybody on every rooftop was shooting at him," Casey said.

I asked Casey, "If you had this weapon during the Howard Johnson days would he have been up there that long?" He said, "No positively not."

In his wooded retreat 70 miles northwest of New Orleans, the retired officer now works in near solitude building high-powered sniper rifles. 

"My rifles aren't guaranteed not to miss. The shooter has to do his part," he said.

Casey personally handcrafts each rifle, building just one a month. He long ago gave up the badge, but has a passion for law enforcement.

"I didn't retire from the police department. I put in 12 years, but there's plenty of cop still in me, buddy," he said.

Using precision equipment, Casey works with Teflon-covered aluminum and beautiful laminated wood stocks. He customizes features down to the micrometer, which he says sets his rifles apart for accuracy.

"Unbelievable, I'm 75 year old and still going. When I go, I hope I'm still here with my guns," he said.

Not only was Tom Casey motivated to build precision rifles because he of his experience as a New Orleans police officer, his father was a major influence.

"I started in the 70s. My dad was a machinist, and I was on the PD, and he was trying to get me off the PD," Casey said.

We put Casey's Sitek rifles to the test, and  when it comes to highly accurate target shooting, Tom Casey's still got it.

"Some might say when they look at the target, My hunting rifle might do that,' but not with three different people pulling the trigger," Casey said.

Casey's custom-built 308 rifles cost as much as $7,500 when rigged with the latest scopes. He has sold several to police officers, and now would like to include departments like the NOPD in his customer base. But the weapons are so meticulously built, he's not looking to mass-produce.

"I can't roll 'em out that fast. I'm more interested in getting the police something," he said.

Something that Casey believes will help officers in life-or-death situations.

Casey served 12 years on the NOPD before retiring in 1979. Many of those years were spent with the Felony Action Squad, a highly controversial unit that worked undercover in high-crime areas.

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