I-Team: Stolen from the law - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

I-Team: Stolen from the law


It's a sound officers dread hearing: gunshots - especially if it's from one of their own guns that has ended up in the wrong hands.

In October 2011, a gun was stolen from a New Orleans Police officer's vehicle that was parked in Baton Rouge on Highland Road. Fast forward two years. Baton Rouge police responded to Evangeline Street with two people shot and one of them dead. The gun used in that murder?  The same one swiped from the police officer's vehicle two years ago.

Guns taken from cops is not an isolated problem in Baton Rouge.

"Law enforcement is an identifiable target because criminals know law enforcement officers carry firearms," said ATF Assistant Special Agent-In-Charge Bobby Schaal.  

Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms helps track stolen guns and put a high priority on those stolen from cops.  

"Criminals getting access to firearms is certainty a concern for all of law enforcement," said Schaal.  

The I-Team spent months gathering records from several law enforcement agencies across 12 parishes.  In some cases, what the I-Team found was staggering.

The I-Team looked at the past five years focusing on guns stolen from cars and homes of law enforcement, both personal guns and department issued.  The number one target for the gun thieves?  The East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office with 30 different guns stolen in the past five years.

"Why so many weapons?" asked WAFB's Kiran Chawla.

"Some of it has been neglect on our part, but the vast majority of it, I think we're not immune from crime," East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sid Gautreaux.

Many of the 30 weapons stolen from EBRSO deputies were handguns, Glocks 17, 19, 22, 26, Smith and Wesson's 60 and 64, and Sig Sauer 220 and 226, one 12 gauge Remington shotgun and three semi-automatic assault rifles.  

EBRSO's commander for the emergency services unit with SWAT and Maritime Response had two fully-loaded assault rifles stolen when someone broke into his work unit back in March.  Neither weapon has been recovered.  

The third assault rifle, also loaded, was stolen last year in May from another deputy's unmarked unit.  Her department-issued POF 415 assault rifle, 12 gauge shotgun and a personal Glock handgun were all taken.  The assault rifle alone cost $4,500.

"We're talking about taxpayer dollars that go to buy these weapons," said Chawla.
"We have to do more on our end to secure our property because of the criminal element," said Sheriff Gautreaux.

Other area sheriff's departments also fell victim.

Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard fell victim two months ago when his truck was stolen from outside a Baton Rouge restaurant with his gun inside.  LPSO has worked four more stolen gun cases since 2008 involving a half-dozen weapons.  One of those cases included three guns taken at once, a Glock 22 handgun, 12 gauge shotgun and one AR-15.  All have since been recovered, but in a different LPSO case, a department-issued Glock and a fully automatic machine gun, were stolen earlier this year.  Both are still on the streets.  In that case, the Livingston Sheriff's Department declined to give the I-Team the name of the deputy involved.  They were the only department to withhold a deputy's name out of all the agencies the I-Team reviewed.

One parish over, the Gonzales Police Department had two cases in the past five years.  One involved a police officer working at a fire station.  He said he was running late, so he parked in the station's handicapped spot and may have left his truck unlocked.  When he came back, his department issued 40 caliber Glock was gone.  

Several departments in the area reported no guns stolen from them, something every top cop would like to say.

"We would definitely love that number to be zero," said Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr.

Chief Dabadie said over the past five years, BRPD has had ten department-issued weapons stolen.   

"If someone is looking for a handgun, they can take it assured that there's probably going to be a handgun or some type of weapon inside a marked police car," said Chief Dabadie.

There are policies in place regarding weapons in police units.

"The policy is that it cannot be in plain view and the vehicle must be locked," said Chief Dabadie.
"So you legally can leave the weapon in unit," asked Chawla.
"As long as it cannot be seen or it's in the trunk," said Chief Dabadie.

The East Baton Rouge Sheriff's policy is roughly the same, but since the I-Team began digging into the issue, Sheriff Gautreaux has expanded his policy.  Deputies will now have to reimburse the department for the cost of the gun if they're found negligent and could face discipline.

Sheriff Gautreaux said there's little doubt there will still be vehicle burglaries and stolen guns, but they're doing their part to reduce it, and more importantly, prevent the worst-case scenario.

"As the sheriff, do you worry that your deputies could face these guns on the street as stolen weapons?" asked Chawla.
"Certainly, it's not just the thought of having one of these weapons used against one of our own but it's having one of these weapons used against the public," said Sheriff Gautreaux.

EBRSO is already making changes after our investigation.  Just days ago, they started installing lock boxes in some of the units.  SWAT vehicles already have locks and the sheriff said, long-term, the plan is to get some sort of box in every unit.  Of the 30 guns stolen from EBRSO, only eight have been recovered.  If you suspect someone has a stolen gun, call Crime Stoppers 344-STOP.

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