944 LOST GUNS
Nine-hundred and forty-four guns. From Glocks, Sig Sauers and Remingtons to sniper and assault rifles, some equipped with grenade launchers.
They used to belong to law enforcement officers across California, but a new Bay Area News Group investigation found hundreds of police-issued weapons have been either stolen, lost or can’t be accounted for since 2010, often disappearing onto the streets without a trace.
A year after a bullet from a federal agent’s stolen gun killed 32-year-old Kate Steinle on a San Francisco pier, this news organization surveyed more than 240 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and discovered an alarming disregard for the way many officers — from police chiefs to cadets to FBI agents — safeguard their weapons.
Their guns have been stolen from behind car seats and glove boxes, swiped from gym bags, dresser drawers and under beds. They have been left on tailgates, car roofs and even atop a toilet paper dispenser in a car dealership’s bathroom. One officer forgot a high-powered assault rifle in the trunk of a taxi. The tally includes Colts, Rugers, Smith & Wessons, a Derringer, a .44-caliber Dirty Harry hand cannon and a small snub-nosed revolver called a “Detective Special.”
In all, since 2010, at least 944 guns have disappeared from police in the Bay Area and state and federal agents across California — an average of one almost every other day — and fewer than 20 percent have been recovered.
Little attention had been paid to the issue before Steinle’s highly publicized death. But at least 86 weapons were snatched from officers’ vehicles between January 2010 and last June’s smash-and-grab burglary of a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger’s gun recovered after Steinle’s shooting. Police have not determined who stole it, but an illegal immigrant is charged in her killing.
“You just can’t leave a gun alone in a vehicle,” said retired FBI Agent Jim Wedick. “You just can’t do it. It has to be in a compartment, or in chains an inch thick wrapped around a lead box, because, God forbid, someone gets hurt.” Even after Steinle’s death, law enforcement agents have continued to leave guns available in their cars: Four FBI guns have been stolen from vehicles in the Bay Area this year, including three in Benicia; Salinas police had three stolen from cars in a six-week period in April and May. And a San Jose Police cadet resigned on the eve of becoming an officer after his gun was stolen from his car in late October while he was in the Benihana restaurant at Cupertino’s Vallco Shopping Mall. A breakdown of the missing 944 guns