Unlocked and Loaded : Missing Police Guns in Upstate SC

About once a month, a criminal steals a gun from those who protect and serve.
About once a month, a criminal steals a gun from those who protect and serve.

(WSPA) — The best target for Upstate criminals looking for a gun might be the nearest police cruiser, a 7News investigation has found.

Dozens of handguns, shotguns, rifles, and a submachine gun are now in the hands of criminals who saw the badge as an easy mark, police reports show.

In one case, not a week had passed before a stolen department-issued handgun was used to shoot an Anderson man at point-blank range in the head during a carjacking.

It was in mid-November, two years ago, that George Long stopped by the Caribbean Car Wash in downtown Anderson while on the way to work.

“I pulled in here and pulled around to this change machine,” Long said as he retraced his steps. “I got my change out and was going to get back into my car.”

That’s when a stranger swooped in and leveled a .38-caliber handgun to Long’s head and pulled the trigger.

The weapon belonged to a Cowpens cop and was stolen from his personal vehicle.

It’s one of 56 service weapons taken from Upstate police since 2010, the 7News investigation found.

Roughly 70-percent of those firearms are still on the street.

In many cases, officers made it easy for the criminals – half the weapons were stolen from vehicles and homes left unlocked.

“I know the criminal element knows that we have stuff that they might want,” Anderson County Sheriff John Skipper said.

The sheriff’s office had a rash of thefts where police cruisers were targeted and both firearms and ammunition were taken.

In the last six years, the Anderson County office had 8 weapons stolen, including shotguns, handguns and SWAT team equipment stolen.

Among the firearms lost is a fully automatic rifle that had been left in a county-owned Chevy Tahoe.

“A wrecker hooked up to the Tahoe and drug it out of the parking garage,” Skipper said. “They stole the whole car.”

In response to the rash of thefts, the sheriff’s office installed new alarms on car windows to wail whenever glass is shattered.

In Greenville County, the 7News investigation revealed nine weapons either lost or stolen.

Reports show seven were swiped from unlocked vehicles. Among the weapons taken were several Glock handguns, .38-caliber pistols and an MP5 submachine gun.

The submachine gun might now be in the hands of a gang, police reports indicate.

Anderson Police had five weapons stolen, including and AR-15 taken from a vehicle left unlocked in the officer’s front yard, reports show.

Along with the firearms, Upstate agencies also can’t account for the whereabouts of missing Tasers, handcuffs, bulletproof vests and police badges.

The .38-caliber handgun used to shoot Long in the head is a rarity because it’s among the few weapons that police got back.

It was stolen two before Long was shot.

Long was sometimes unsteady as he retraced his steps immediately after the shooting. His balance is off because of the permanent damage done to his left ear and eye.

“I got up and started walking this way … falling … every couple of feet I would fall,” he said.

Anderson Police later caught a convicted felon named Jeremi Jermaine Gray driving Long’s car – now serving 10 years and three months in federal prison.

He had both a long criminal record and a police officer’s gun.

And a bullet from that weapon is still buried in Long’s brain.

“I have never felt more blessed and lucky to be alive,” Long said. “By all intents and purposes I should be dead.”

DEPARTMENT LOST OR STOLEN FIREARMS LOST OR STOLEN? FIREARMS STILL MISSING? NOTES
Anderson Co. SO Glock 22 handgun and Remington 870 shotgun (no forced entry); Remington 870 shotgun and S&W 642 handgun; Remington 870 shotgun; Remington 870 shotgun (recovered); Sig Sauer 516 rifle and Glock 21 handgun; 8 8 Sig Sauer 516 rifle and Glock 21 handgun taken from a stolen police vehicle (vehicle was towed from a parking garage in Columbia; vehicle was later recovered).
Anderson PD Glock 27 handgun; AR-15 rifle (no forced entry); Glock 27 handgun (no forced entry); Glock 27 handgun (recovered); S&W .38-caliber handgun 5 4 AR-15 rifle stolen from unlocked vehicle.
Clemson University PD Handgun; Glock 23 handgun (recovered) 2 1
Clinton PD Glock Gen 4 handgun and Colt Law Enforcement Carbine 5.56mm rifle (both recovered) 2 0 Personal firearms also stolen along with department-issued Glock Gen 4 handgun and Colt Law Enforcement Carbine 5.56mm rifle
Cowpens PD Sig Sauer handgun 1 1 The Sig Sauer handgun was stolen from a truck along with six personal rifles. The handgun was later used to shoot a victim during a carjacking.
Duncan PD S&W.38-caliber handgun (no forced entry) 1 1 S&W .38-caliber handgun was a backup weapon
Easley PD Glock 22 handgun (no forced entry) 1 1
Gaffney PD S&W .38-caliber handgun (no forced entry; recovered); Glock 22 handgun (recovered) 2 0
Greenville Co. SO Glock 21 handgun and H&K MP5 submachine gun (no forced entry); .38-caliber handgun (no forced entry); Glock 21 (no forced entry); .38-caliber handgun (no forced entry); Glock 21 handgun and S&W .38-caliber handgun (no forced entry); .38-caliber handgun (lost during foot chase); .38-caliber handgun (recovered) 9 8 Glock 21 handgun and H&K MP5 submachine gun stolen from unlocked vehicle. Incident report notes theft is result of “possible gang activity.”
Greenville PD Browning .380 handgun; Sig Sauer P226 .45-caliber handgun (no forced entry) 2 2 Incident report notes that Browning .380 handgun is a former crime gun that was removed from evidence room and placed into service. Sig Sauer P226 .45-caliber handgun taken from unlocked vehicle.
Greenwood PD Glock 22 handgun and Remington 870 shotgun (no forced entry; both recovered); Glock 22 handgun 3 1 Incident report notes theft of Glock 22 handgun with Remington 870 shotgun was from an unlocked vehicle and ammunition also taken.
Greer PD Glock 30 handgun (recovered) 1 0 Incident report notes car was stolen and Glock 30 left in car. Incdient report also notes no forced entry and unknown suspect must have had a key to the car.
Mauldin PD Remington 870 shotgun 1 1 Remington 870 has been missing for roughly 30 years. Department realized shotgun was missing during a 2015 inventory report.
Ninety Six PD Glock 22 handgun (no forced entry) 1 1
Oconee Co. SO S&W .38-caliber handgun (no forced entry; recovered) 1 0
Pickens Co. SO Remington 700 shotgun (recovered) 1 0
Seneca PD Glock 22 handgun; Glock 37 handgun and S&W 642 handgun (no forced entry); Glock 38 handgun and S&W 9mm handgun (no forced entry; both recovered); rifle (no forced entry; recovered) 6 4 Glock 38 handgun and S&W 9mm handgun were stolen from unlocked house. Rifle fell out of trunk of patrol car while on a bumpy road. Trunk had a faulty latch. A motorist spotted the rifle and returned it to police.
South Carolina Department of Public Safety Glock 37 handgun (recovered); S&W .38-caliber handgun; S&W .38-caliber handgun; S&W .38-caliber handgun; Shotgun (recovered); Glock 37 handgun and S&W .38-caliber handgun 7 5 Glock 37 handgun was stolen from home in Orangeburg County. Incident report notes it was recovered in possession of 16-year-old high school student after he brought a loaded handgun magazine to school. The report notes the student had ongoing issue with another juvenile and planned to bring a handgun to school the next day. Two other handguns were found in suspect’s possession.
South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Glock 23 handgun (recovered); Glock 27 handgun (recovered); Glock 23 handgun 3 1 Glock 23 handgun stolen from closet at home, likely by member of a construction crew working in the home.
Spartanburg Co. SO Glock 23 handgun (no forced entry); Glock 23 handgun (no forced entry); Glock 27 handgun 3 3 Incident report notes that suspect says vehicle door was unlocked for the first Glock 23 handgun. Incident report notes that car unlocked in theft of second Glock 23 handgun. Suspect said this second handgun was sold for cash and heroin. Both handguns were stolen by the same people on different dates.
Spartanburg PD Glock 22 handgun (no forced entry) 1 1 Glock 22 handgun taken from unlocked hotel gym locker
Union DPS Glock 27 handgun; Glock 22 handgun (recovered) 2 1 Glock 27 handgun stolen from luggage at airport. Glock 22 handgun stolen from locked vehicle. Incident report states “negligence by employee.” Department policy now states no firearm storage in personal vehicle. Policy came out after incident.
Woodruff PD Glock Gen 4 handgun (no forced entry) 1 1
TOTAL 64 45

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