Hundreds of guns stolen in professional burglaries

January 26, 2012 3:17:19 PM PST
Nearly 300 guns have been stolen from more than half a dozen pawn shops over the past several weeks, and authorities believe the burglaries are connected.

Last week, an accused trio of robbers was arrested in north Harris County -- Guillermo Andersen, Christian Carbajal and Jesus Rendon -- all allegedly caught on the roof and in the act of breaking into Jim Fullerton's pawnshop. Precinct 4 deputies responded.

"They go up on the roof and the three guys are just laying down up there and hoping for the best... trying to be as flat as possible," said Fullerton.

What gives the arrests added importance is a rash of pawn shop burglaries over the past six weeks and what was taken.

One burglary happened in Bryan, another in West Columbia and six in north Houston and Harris County. Combined 274 firearms were stolen. The ATF believes the three suspects arrested are part of a larger group and they're not believed to be beginners.

"This is an organized group without a doubt and we can back that up with our investigation," said Lt. Jeff Stauber with the Harris County Sheriff's Office.

"They are not smash and grabs. These guys are organized. They are watching federal firearms licensees. Therefore licensees need to make sure cameras are operational, security systems up to date. We request public's assistance in recovering these guns," said ATF Special Agent in Charge Gary Orchowski.

Some of the surveillance video was released Thursday. The suspects wear masks, bring their own equipment to bring in through the roofs. The box truck and minivan have no visible license plates.

Gun thefts are not unusual in Texas, but 131 guns taken from one store is. And then there's this.

"Nearly 50 percent of all weapon are recovered within 25 miles of where they were taken. And again we have recovered only one firearm," said Orchowski.

That gun was recovered out of state. That means 273 other weapons are in circulation -- either out of state, country or here in Houston.

"There's a lot of weapons out there. In Harris County, we don't like stolen weapons on the street. So we need to get these things recovered," said Lt. Stauber.

In a couple of cases where the burglars couldn't get the guns, they took electronics and jewelry. But the immediate concern is the guns.

The agents and the deputies say they don't know where these stolen guns are and what they're being used for.

The three suspects in custody are facing organized crime and burglary charges. Detectives and federal agents believe four more suspects are out there, and that they will strike again.

Crime Stoppers will pay up to $5,000 for any information called in to the 713-222-TIPS (8477) or submitted online at that leads to the filing of felony charges or arrest of the suspect(s) in this case. Tips can also be sent by text message. Text TIP610 plus your tip to CRIMES (274637). All tipsters remain anonymous.

This story was brought to you through our partnership with Houston Community Newspapers. You can read more about the gun thefts in The Spring Observer.