Authorities are looking for leads in a series of gun hop smash-and-dash robberies, and they are putting their money on it.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has offered a $5,000 reward to solve the break-ins at South Mississippi gun stores.
Authorities say the gun thief went from Gautier to Ocean Springs before making a final stop in D’Iberville.
At Highway 90 Pawn and Gun Shop in Gautier on Friday night, the suspect backed his truck into the glass doors, ran inside, busted the display cases with his fists and then took off with nine hand guns.
He was in and out of the shop within about 20 seconds.
“We don’t know at this point the suspect and what his motive is to have these weapons, but we do know they are on the street and it could present a problem for our citizens,” Gautier Police Chief Dante Elbin said.
About two hours after that break in, the alarm sounded at Cook’s Gun Shop in D’Iberville. The scene was a repeat, the suspect got in the same way, busted the display cases, stuffed nine handguns in his backpack and then ran out.
Shop owner Kenneth Cook said, “It’s just like someone breaking into your house and raping your daughter, except not quite as bad. We take it personal. I feel responsible for the guns and feel obligated to help get the guns back.”
Cook said the break-in caused $8,000 to $10,000 in damage
In between the two break-ins, police say the burglar tried to get inside a third shop, Jerry’s Irons and Pawn in Ocean Springs. Investigators said the brick around the glass door kept the burglar from being able to bust the glass with his truck and get inside.
Authorities suspect the man planned the break-ins and rammed his truck into three businesses in 1½ hours.
ATF Resident Agent in Charge Joel Lee said the guns have fallen into the hands of someone who apparently can’t get them legally.
“We have numerous safety concerns,” Lee said. “The biggest is firearms could fall into the hands of the criminal element.”
Lee said the other thing investigators are honing in on to try and catch the culprit is someone trying to sell the stolen guns.