Local News

SWAT Weapons Theft Prompts Policy Review

Posted April 25, 2007 12:23 p.m. EDT
Updated April 25, 2007 9:08 p.m. EDT

— The Wake County Sheriff's Office is reviewing its policies and procedures after seven weapons were stolen from a van as members of the county SWAT team to an out-of-state competition.

Members of the office's Special Response Team were on their way to Little Rock, Ark., for the World SWAT Challenge when their van was broken into Monday afternoon outside a restaurant in Memphis, Tenn.

"They parked in a place that was visible, and it's just one of those things that happened," Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said. "One of the guys came to retrieve something and saw the car had been broken into, and actually the bad guys were leaving when he came out."

Three assault rifles with several hundred rounds of ammunition, two 12-gauge shotguns and two .357-caliber semiautomatic handguns were stolen from the van, authorities said. The weapons are valued at about $7,000, authorities said, adding that they are more concerned about the firearms winding up in the wrong hands.

The unmarked van was locked and the windows are tinted, so the thieves probably had no idea what they would find, Harrison said. Because the white van resembles a construction vehicle, the thieves might have been looking for tools inside, he said.

"There were more weapons than usual, and they were going to the competition so they just had them in there. They had them covered up, of course, but they were not secured," he said. "I think once (the thieves) got inside and saw what they had, unfortunately for us, it was not a good day."

The theft was captured on a nearby surveillance video camera, which helped the Memphis police investigation. Police had detained  five people late Wednesday in connection with the incident, but no charges had been filed.

Police also have recovered at least one of the weapons, authorities said.

In light of the incident, Harrison said the sheriff's office would look at how the team travels with weapons in the future.

"We're going to look at it and see what actually happened and, if we're traveling, at other means of securing these guns," he said. "We'll look at it. We learn from mistakes. Hopefully, we'll get our weapons back and the main thing is to hope nobody gets hurt."