Thief steals gun, purse as Fla. deputy pumps gas
Off-duty Deputy Sylviane Wernath was pumping gas when someone swiped her purse — containing a gun, cellphone and police credentials — from her unlocked car
By Linda Trischitta
DAVIE, Fla. — Do you lock your car door while you fill your tank? A Broward sheriff's deputy did not, and it cost her.
Off-duty Deputy Sylviane Wernath was pumping gas Wednesday in Davie when someone swiped her purse — containing a gun, cellphone and police credentials — from her unlocked car.
Detectives tracked the thieves to a motel in Dania Beach, where they brought out a SWAT team to be safe. Two men and two male teenagers were taken into custody. Police did not release their names.
The sheriff's office said it will review the incident.
"This case demonstrates that even law enforcement can be a victim," said Davie Police Capt. Dale Engle. "It's important to secure your valuables in your car at all times. It doesn't matter where you are, you can be victimized."
Wernath, 52, who works out of the Weston district, was at the Shell station at 14810 Griffin Road when her purse was taken. Police pinged her phone and traced it to the Motel 6 at 825 E. Dania Beach Blvd. in Dania Beach.
Because investigators had a description of the burglars' car, a silver Chevrolet HHR, the motel clerk could tell them which room was rented and who booked it.
One of the suspects used an ID to get the room, Engle said. A records check found he was wanted on two warrants for felony aggravated assault with a firearm.
The Broward sheriff's SWAT team was called in because the person was wanted and police figured he had the deputy's gun in the room, Engle said.
The people inside would not come out, so the SWAT team went in, he said.
Thursday afternoon, detectives searched the motel room and recovered Wernath's gun, a second gun reported stolen in Hollywood and a third weapon from an unknown source.
Behind a bathroom light fixture, they found credit cards, phones, purses and IDs that did not belong to the occupants of the room, Sgt. Mark Leone said in an email.
The deputy's credentials were recovered from a toilet where someone had tried to flush them away, Leone said. Still to be searched was the Chevrolet HHR.
Gas station burglaries are common in South Florida. On Monday, the Broward Sheriff's Office released video recorded Sept. 26 at a gas station in Parkland, where a man stole a woman's handbag from her SUV as she readied the gas pump.
Also last month, a woman made national news after she leaped onto the windshield of a man's car after he stole her purse at a Dania Beach gas station.
Davie Police ask anyone with information about the latest burglary to call 954-693-8200 or Broward County Crime Stoppers, at 954-493-8477. That organization will pay up to $3,000 for tips that lead to an arrest.