Police: Four suspects stole at least 42 firearms from Tampa gun store

Crime scene tape around Shooting Sports, on Dale Mabry in Tampa, as police investigate a reported break-in (WFLA)

TAMPA, FL (WFLA) – These four burglars knew exactly what they were doing. They blasted a hole at Shooting Sports on Dale Mabry in Tampa and ran in.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office says the break-in happened around 1:35 a.m. Thursday at the rifle and pistol range, located at 7811 North Dale Mabry Highway. Law enforcement tells News Channel 8 at least 42 handguns were stolen – in about 60 seconds.

“Who would have thought that they would come through a wall? Where is that documented that it is an entry point, the same thing if they came thru the ceiling?” Fred Flesche, owner of Shooting Sports, asked.

The question now is where those guns are headed. “We are concerned with any of those firearms ending up in the wrong hands, whether those hands be the hands of a child or the hand of some type of criminal who has plans to do a much more heinous crime,” Major Chad Chronister with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said.

Tampa Police say it appears burglars left a large hole in the side of the building (WFLA)
Tampa Police say it appears burglars left a large hole in the side of the building (WFLA)

Kevin Richardson is a supervisory special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. He said in 2014 there were a total of four gun shop burglaries in the Tampa Bay area. Already this year, there have been 10. Stolen guns are frequently used in crimes and murders. A stolen gun from Philadelphia was once used to murder a New York police officer.

Richardson has learned that if these criminals are locals, the guns might stay in the area. “It’s profitable. You go in, you steal 42 guns. Maybe some of these guns have an average retail price of $300-$400,” he said.

gun-store-suspects

Richardson says the guns are sold to drug dealers or convicted felons. “Usually when [the guns] stay in the community, they’re usually detected very quickly,” he said. “Even if they try to remove the serial numbers, we have a way to bring the serial numbers back, so we have that fingerprint and we have our labs and the county and state have their labs, and we can raise those serial numbers back.”

Smuggling guns out of the state or even out of the country could mean greater profits. In South America stolen handguns can be sold for thousands of dollars, Richardson said.

He recalls a few years ago some guns stolen in Florida were found along the Turkish border.

Federal officials are doing everything they can to find these guns, but they’ll need the community’s help to stop this growing threat. “What they need to do is think about if one of their family members is hurt or injured because one of these guns, that’s burglarized hits the streets, then it changes your perspective,” Richardson said.

Detectives say the four unknown suspects wore dark clothing. They smashed display cases in order to steal the guns.

The four suspects are described:

– A male of an unknown race wearing a light-colored hoodie, dark pants, dark shoes with two light-colored stripes on the side
– A male of an unknown race wearing a dark hoodie and light-colored pants
– A white male wearing a black jacket, black hat and light-colored pants.
– A white suspect of an unknown sex wearing a dark-hooded jacket, dark pants, a light-colored shirt, dark shoes and light-colored gloves.

Anyone with any information about the suspects is asked to call the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office at 247-8200 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS (8477). You can report anonymously and be eligible for a cash reward.

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