PLAQUEMINE, LA (WAFB) - Seven kids between ages 10 and 15-years-old and two adults were arrested in connection to a burglary of at least 10 guns in Plaquemine Thursday afternoon.
According to Plaquemine Police Chief Kenny Payne, the nine alleged offenders broke into the home on Meriam Street, stealing more than $100,000 in guns, gold pocket watches and cash. The guns all belong to Ivan Stewart Jr., an amateur historian and artist.
"It feels like you've been violated, things that you treasure," he said.
An enthusiast of the Mexican American War, his home is an unofficial museum. His walls covered with antiques he collected, including old war hats and regalia, saddles, an RCA record player, and even a replica cannon he made himself. He collects guns to use as models for his war-time paintings, which cover the walls of his home.
"As an amateur historian, I try to bring this history to the forefront in graphic form," he said.
Stewart serves as a mentor for young kids in his community and he said that Thursday morning, two boys came to see his collection. He then left to go antiquing. Police say those kids may have told other members of the community about the guns.
"They get out on the street and they talk about it and say let's go in there and get some of them," Payne said.
Police said the 10-year-old was the first in the home.
"[They] broke a small window and lifted one of the youngest ones, the 10-year-old, into the house," Payne said. The 10-year-old then allegedly unlocked the door.
Over the course of the day, police said alleged offenders entered the house in a series of groups.
"So it wasn't go in for five minutes and be done for the day, they were in and out several times securing different items," Payne said.
Around 4 p.m. Thursday, police received a call after a neighbor witnessed the children exiting the home through a window. Police arrived, placing the three juveniles in the home at the time under arrest. The other four juveniles and adults were subsequently arrested.
One of them, 19-year-old Jaylan Smith, was charged with felony theft, simply burglary of an inhabited dwelling, and three counts of contributing to the delinquency of juveniles. At least one other adult is being questioned in connection to the burglary at this time.
So far, at least eight of the weapons have been retrieved. Police say three pistols and three rifles were found in flowerbeds and under porches of the children involved.
"That's going to take some time and money to restore those weapons back to where they were," said Payne. At least one of the rifles was already rusting.
Three other guns were found off Bayou Road. Police say one of the adults showed them the spot where the weapons were hidden. The Baton Rouge Police dive team found at least one of the weapons in the bayou.
Another pistol was found dozens of feet in the air suspended in a nearby tree. Police say one of the alleged offenders threw it toward the bayou and it got stuck there.
Stewart said he will continue collecting. "I will pick up the pieces and start all over again," he said.
As for the kids, he hopes they learn from there time with police.
"I hope they don't become career criminals, and I hope this is a lesson for them," he said.