Weapons stolen from N.M. cop cars

Related article:
Rifle, ammo stolen from Calif. cop cars

By Rozanna M. Martinez
Albuquerque Journal

ALBUQUERQUE — Weapons locked inside three law enforcement vehicles are missing after the vehicles were broken into overnight Tuesday in Rio Rancho and northwest Albuquerque.

A Sandoval County Sheriff's Office vehicle and a State Police unit were broken into in the Cabezon area of Rio Rancho, according to Rio Rancho police spokesman John Francis. He said the driver's side window on each vehicle was broken.

The Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department reported one of its vehicles was broken into near McMahon and Unser in northwest Albuquerque.

An assault rifle in the State Police vehicle and one in the BCSO unit were reported missing, according to spokesmen for the agencies.

Two weapons were taken from the SCSO unit, Sandoval County Sheriff John Paul Trujillo said.

Each weapon was locked into gun racks in the units.

Trujillo said it is standard procedure for weapons to be locked into the racks when not in use. He said his deputies should be taking the weapons inside their residences overnight and usually do on their days off.

He said his department would review the issue to prevent future thefts.

"This is a very severe hit on us," State Police Lt. Eric Garcia said Wednesday. "... The general threat level goes up for the law enforcement community. We will take steps to lessen the ability to take weapons (in the future)."

Garcia said police units have locking mechanisms for weapons to prevent them from being taken. He said he was unsure how the mechanism was manipulated so the rifle could be removed.

"It is a very unfortunate incident," Garcia said. "It hits home when it happens to one of our own."

Generally speaking, he said, most officers lock their units and leave the weapons inside because they are securely locked in the gun rack.

Garcia said State Police are working with SCSO and BCSO and sharing intelligence to find those responsible for the burglaries.

"We will do whatever we can with whatever we have and hold them accountable for their actions," Garcia said.

BCSO Lt. David Knowles said the department's investigation was in its early stages Wednesday.

"We are moving forward and looking for evidence," he said. "We are concerned about the break-in and that a weapon of such magnitude was removed."

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 843-STOP, State Police at (505) 841-9256, or BCSO at 798-7000.

Copyright 2008 Albuquerque Journal

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