Andover police said today that they had recovered two high-powered rifles that were stolen from an FBI SWAT vehicle sometime overnight Wednesday, and a 16-year-old from Lawrence was charged in the theft.
The teenager, who was not identified, was questioned at the Andover police station with his father, and he was ultimately charged as a juvenile with two counts of breaking and entering to a vehicle in the nighttime, larceny over $250, and larceny under $250. He was brought before a juvenile court judge this afternoon, but the outcome of the appearance was not known. Juvenile court proceedings are confidential.
The two rifles, a Colt M16-A1 Rifle and an HS Precision Pro-Series 2000 Sniper Rifle, were turned over to police in Lawrence at about 2 a.m. Friday.
Authorities did not identify the person who brought the weapons to police, but authorities plan to issue a $20,000 reward that was offered for their return, said Andover Police Commander Charles Heseltine.
“Somebody will receive it,” Heseltine said.
The two rifles were stolen sometime from Wednesday night into Thursday morning from a SWAT vehicle that was parked at an FBI agent’s home in Andover.
Several other cars in the same neighborhood were broken into around the same time, Heseltine said.
“We’ve had problems in the past with vehicles being broken into, so this isn’t unusual for us. It’s been kind of widespread,” Heseltine said. “All through town and in surrounding communities, it’s been an ongoing problem.”
Authorities did not identify the name of the agent who was responsible for the weapons, but the theft sparked an intense search and an investigation.
Heseltine said that Andover Detective Kevin Aufiero was able to lift a fingerprint from one of the other cars that was broken into Wednesday night, and authorities matched it in a State Police database to the Lawrence juvenile. Then, authorities found a matching print on the FBI SWAT vehicle, and a warrant was issued for the juvenile’s arrest.
The juvenile was located in Lawrence Thursday, Heseltine said.
“The subject was brought back to the Andover police department with his father, and spoke with detectives here,” Heseltine said.
The FBI also said that it had initiated an investigation into whether the agent was authorized to store the weapons in the SWAT vehicle, and whether they were properly secured.
“Any loss of weapon automatically generates an internal investigation which is managed by the FBI in Washington,” the bureau said.
Under state gun laws, and protocol followed by other police agencies, a gun can be stored in a car as long as it is in a locked trunk or container, and it is unloaded.
Heseltine said he would not comment on whether the guns were properly stored, saying he would defer at this time to the FBI investigation.
He said the SWAT vehicle was taken by FBI officials as part of the investigation. Milton J. Valencia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.