SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — Sarasota’s police chief says she was concerned about safety when she canceled a NAACP community forum scheduled for Wednesday night after learning that two high-powered rifles had been stolen during burglaries earlier in the day.
An AK-47 rifle with 1,000 rounds of ammunition was stolen in one burglary and an AR-7 rifle with 700 rounds was stolen in the second burglary.
The NAACP was planning to hold the Wednesday night forum with local law enforcement following the deadly shootings of five Dallas police officers and the recent deaths of two African-American men at the hands of police officers.
Chief Bernadette DiPino said that a direct threat exists against law enforcement in Florida and officers nationwide because of the recent incidents. “We believe law enforcement officers have a target on them and we’re very concerned for their safety,” said DiPino.
She said she was concerned for the safety of everyone at the meeting after learning that there were two stolen rifles out on the streets and she wouldn’t be able to live with herself if something happened.
“I couldn’t feel comfortable knowing that an AK 47 with 1000 rounds was on our streets in a close proximity to where the meeting was to take place,” DiPino said. “We didn’t have the resources available to make sure people weren’t going to get hurt.”
She asked citizens to report any information they might have about the thefts and also warned gun owners to lock their homes and cars.
14 firearms have been stolen in Sarasota this year; 11 handguns and three rifles. All of the weapons were stolen from cars or homes that were not locked.
“Secure your weapons from criminals,” she said.
DiPino said the community forum has been rescheduled to July 25, and will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Robert L. Taylor Community Complex.