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Missing M-16 vanished from Sheriff's Department in February

August 14, 2013|By Joseph Serna

It took about six months before the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department realized it was missing one of its M-16 rifles, a department official said Wednesday.

Sheriff’s Department spokesman Steve Whitmore said it appears the fully automatic-capable assault weapon vanished in early February, though he could not say how officials reached that conclusion and why they just recently discovered it was gone.

“A lot of this is vague because this is something that rarely happens,” Whitmore told The Times on Wednesday.

In an internal email to department supervisors Friday, Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers said the weapon's disappearance was "embarrassing" and urged supervisors "to turn over EVERY rock to find this missing rifle."

Because of the mistake, the California governor’s Office of Emergency Services has suspended the department from receiving excess federal property, Whitmore said. The department has received 1,087 M-16s from the governor’s office in recent years.

"I can't emphasize enough what a big deal it is when we lose an assault weapon, especially one entrusted to us through" the Office of Emergency Services, the email said.

"It's wrong. It's embarrassing," Whitmore told The Times on Tuesday. "How could this have happened? Honestly, we don't know."

Supervisors have been ordered to ask every department commander if they have seen the rifle, to check every vehicle and unattended locker and to document everything.

Officials have the rifle's serial number but because it's an excess weapon provided by the federal government, it wasn't tracked as "acutely" as other weapons, Whitmore said.

"Every nook and cranny at the station must be searched," Rogers wrote.

Whitmore said the department is drawing up new policies to ensure that it doesn't lose any more weapons. Every time a person handles a weapon, it will be documented, he said.

"We need to get significantly better at this," he said.

He then added, "We will find it."


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