Fla. deputy loses submachine gun, rifle, two pistols to car burglars
It's not clear whether the vehicle was locked when the deputy left it unattended
By Rene Stutzman
CASSELBERRY, Fla. — Someone stole a submachine gun, a semi-automatic rifle, two pistols and a Taser from an unmarked Orange County Sheriff's Office SUV that a deputy had parked in a Casselberry driveway for the night.
It's not clear whether the vehicle was locked when the deputy left it unattended. There were no signs of forced entry, said Casselberry police Sgt. Chris Pamatian, but the deputy who was assigned the vehicle said he had locked it.
The SUV that was burglarized in Casselberry — a Chevrolet Traverse — was parked in the Lake Griffin Estates neighborhood Sunday when the guns were taken between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m., the police department said.
Stolen were an H&K UMP submachine gun, an M4 semiautomatic rifle and a Glock Model 21 semiautomatic pistol, all owned by the Sheriff's Office. The fourth gun, a .40-caliber Glock Model 23 semiautomatic pistol, was owned by the deputy, Pamatian said.
The thieves also stole a Taser, tactical vests, a Kevlar helmet, an expandable baton and police radio, police reported.
Casselberry described the deputy as a member of the Sheriff's Office SWAT team, but Nieves said he was a member of a similar but different squad, the Tactical Unit, a high-risk squad that typically targets high-crime areas.
Nieves said he would not release the deputy's name, pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation. The issue being investigated, he wrote in an email, was whether the deputy had secured the guns inside in a department-approved and locked container inside the vehicle.
If he had not, he had violated agency rules, Nieves said.
According to Pamatian, there was no locked container.
One of the pieces of evidence gathered by Casselberry police was surveillance camera video from a neighbor that showed three suspects checking neighborhood vehicles for unlocked cars.
The theft was the second time in two months that someone has stolen weapons from a parked Orange County Sheriff's Office vehicle.
On April 30, two undercover officers were swimming in the Atlantic Ocean in Daytona Beach, where they were attending a conference, when a car thief stole their unmarked SUV, a Nissan Xterra, then ditched it two blocks away but kept two loaded handguns.
The Sheriff's Office would not release the names of those deputies, but Capt. Angelo Nieves said Tuesday that both had been suspended for eight hours as punishment.
Their guns had been tucked inside a black purse on the floor of the SUV's front seat, Nieves said. They have not been recovered.
Three months before that theft, Sheriff Jerry Demings made a public plea, asking county residents to stop leaving guns in their vehicles because of the threat of theft.
Sunday's burglary was similar to a 2006 incident, when another submachine gun, a semi-automatic rifle and a .45-caliber Glock pistol were stolen from a parked, unmarked Sheriff's Office SWAT vehicle in Orlando near Curry Ford and Dean Roads.
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