Arrests made in firearm theft ring targeting Ill. police squad cars

One of the suspects tried to escape by scrambling through an interview room ceiling


By Tony Reid
Herald & Review

DECATUR, Ill. — Police said they have broken up a Central Illinois burglary ring that sought to steal weapons from cop cars, and one of the suspects tried to escape by scrambling through an interview room ceiling in the Macon County Sheriff's Office headquarters.

That suspect, an 18-year-old man who had been taken into custody Tuesday at his Cerro Gordo home, wasn't destined to get far.

A sworn affidavit said detectives, who had left the room for a moment, were monitoring it remotely and saw the man "lift himself into the drop ceiling." The officers rushed back in and said the man gave up and fell down onto a table.

"He stated he was tired of being in the room," said Detective Cody Woods, who signed the affidavit.

Woods said deputies had earlier recovered two AR-15 rifles hidden in the floor and ceiling of the man's Cerro Gordo home; both had been reported stolen from police vehicles in Springfield and Menard County. The man would later admit to being involved in 30 vehicle burglaries with a 19-year-old suspect from Decatur.

"He admitted to traveling throughout Central Illinois with (the 19-year-old) to find and target the cars," said Woods.

The man said the majority of vehicles burgled in Macon County were in the Forsyth area, and their first victim had been a Macon County Sheriff's Office unmarked vehicle from which they stole a semi-automatic handgun, Woods said.

The 18-year-old is now being held in the Macon County Jail on bail set at $180,000 and is booked on four preliminary counts of burglary. He also faces a charge of escape, possession of stolen firearms and causing criminal damage to police property.

The 19-year-old Decatur man, arrested at an address in Sullivan late Tuesday morning, is also jailed with bail set at $390,000. He is charged with five preliminary counts of burglary, two counts of armed violence and a charge of possession of a stolen firearm.

Woods said police have video surveillance footage of the Decatur man searching through vehicles at night while armed with a handgun and using a spotlight mounted on the gun to see with.

A third suspect, a 20-year-old man from Atwood, was arrested at the same Sullivan address as the Decatur man. He is quoted as admitting possession of a stolen semi-automatic handgun that he told police "he was keeping for himself." Charged with possession of a stolen gun, he was released from jail Thursday after paying a $2,000 bond on bail set at $20,000.

Commenting on the case, Macon County Sheriff Jim Root said the suspects stole body armor as well as guns and said the case was highly unusual.

"We have never come across anything like this before," he said of burglaries targeting squad cars. He said the suspects hit other vehicles, too, zeroing in on sport utility vehicles and other types that looked like they might be used by law enforcement.

Root said his detectives cracked the case with help from Decatur police, who had in turn received a tip from another county. Root said two of his department's vehicles had been hit in one night in thefts that dated back to June or earlier.

All preliminary charges are subject to review by the office of the state's attorney.

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(c)2022 the Herald & Review (Decatur, Ill.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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