Assault rifle stolen from Hastings police squad carAn AR-15 assault rifle was stolen from the Hastings Police Department’s DARE vehicle Tuesday morning while it was parked outside the home of an officer.
By: Keith Grauman, The Hastings Star-Gazette
An AR-15 assault rifle was stolen from the Hastings Police Department’s DARE vehicle last Tuesday morning while it was parked outside the home of an officer.
Around 6 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 10, a call came into the police department about gunshots coming from the ponding basin located immediately to the west of Christa McAuliffe Elementary School, near where W. 14th Street dead-ends.
The caller saw someone leaving the area carrying what looked like a backpack and a case. A witness followed the suspect, but lost sight of the suspect after he or she was seen crossing Highway 55 near Pleasant Drive.
Hastings police officers and Dakota County sheriff’s deputies combed the area, searching for the suspect, but didn’t find anyone. The Hastings police K-9 also attempted to track the person’s scent, but was unable to do so.
At about 6:50 a.m., less than an hour later, Hastings police officer Tim Connell, who had the DARE vehicle at his house, came outside to begin his workday and saw that a window on the vehicle had been shattered.
Connell, who lives in the same neighborhood in which the gunshots were reported, discovered the rifle and its case, along with his duty bag, were missing from the vehicle. A duty bag typically contains things like extra handcuffs, ammunition and rain gear.
While the police officers and deputies were initially searching for the suspect, they drove by a garage with an open door in the neighborhood. In speaking with the homeowner, they discovered a car in the garage had been ransacked, but nothing was missing. Police believe the two break-ins are related.
Every Hastings police squad car is equipped with an AR-15. They’re supposed to be locked into a secure device in the squad behind the driver’s seat, but because the DARE vehicle is relatively new, about two months old, and isn’t a typical squad car design, the police department was still looking into a lock for the rifle, according to Police Chief Mike McMenomy.
“The gun shouldn’t have been in the car,” he said.
The investigation into the stolen gun is still ongoing, according to Police Lt. Jim Rgnonti.
Last Thursday, police executed a search warrant at the Hastings residence of a possible suspect in hopes of finding the gun, but the search didn’t turn up anything. Police also searched the wooded areas near where the suspect was last seen to try to recover the weapon.
McMenomy said anytime a gun falls into the wrong hands it’s a concern, but an AR-15 shoots at a faster velocity than a handgun, which makes it even more dangerous.
Last Tuesday and Wednesday, McMenomy said the police department would have taken the gun back, no questions asked, if it were returned. That deal, however, is now off the table.
The damage to the vehicle, coupled with the stolen property, totals about $2,000. A reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of the person or people responsible. If you have information about the incident, you’re encouraged to call the Hastings Police Department at 480-2300.