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Gun instructor claims innocence despite pleading guilty to fraud in St. Louis County

Gun instructor claims innocence despite pleading guilty to fraud in St. Louis County

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CLAYTON • One of the area’s most prolific trainers of Missouri’s armed citizens is maintaining his innocence despite his guilty plea earlier this week to seven counts of falsifying documents his students used to obtain permits to carry guns in public.

Firearms instructor Donald Crangle, 53, was accused of cutting corners in gun classes required for residents interested in getting concealed carry permits.

Police turned their attention to Crangle’s operation in March after a clerk in the county police department’s records division noticed an applicant’s certificate showed he had received the required eight hours of firearms training that day even though it was only 1:30 p.m. County detectives then signed up for Crangle’s next class at his home in the 6400 block of Fort Bellefontaine Road.

After just three hours, Crangle told the 11 students in the class that day that they had completed the course even though they had not met any of the state-mandated criteria, police said.

Investigators estimate that Crangle has taught nearly 2,000 people in St. Louis County alone since 2008. He was also a registered instructor in St. Charles and Jefferson counties as well as St. Louis and Florida.

The NRA revoked Crangle’s certification after he was charged.

Judge Mary Bruntrager Schroeder sentenced Crangle on Monday to two years of probation and 100 hours of community service on four counts of issuing a false instrument or certificate. She also forbid him from teaching concealed carry permit classes. Should he violate his probation, he could spend six months in jail on the charges.

She also sentenced him to one year of probation and 100 hours of community service for the remaining three charges of providing false information regarding the performance of an applicant.

Both sentences are to run concurrently.

Reached by phone Friday, Crangle called them “nothing charges” and said he had pleaded guilty because “there is no fighting St. Louis County.”

Crangle claims he has video showing that the class the undercover officers attended lasted about six hours. He says it would have lasted longer, but a SWAT team interrupted the class. He said he didn’t provide the tapes to the court.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” he said. “The St. Louis County police is like a military force, and eventually you’ll all realize that. How can you fight them?

“I wish you guys wouldn’t report on this anymore, you are like parasites.”

Police said Crangle spent about a third of the class that the undercover officers attended talking about his days with the Army’s Delta Force. His website states that “Sgt. Donald W. Crangle is a retired veteran of the U.S. Army Special Forces.”

After the Post-Dispatch reported the story, a group of Special Force veterans, or Green Berets, posted it on their website, www.professionalsoldiers.com, and requested Crangle’s public military records, which showed he was a private first class tank driver with an AWOL charge when he was honorably discharged.

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Christine Byers is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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