Pembroke Pines, FL – Investigators are searching for a man who stole an AR-15 rifle and other law enforcement gear from a marked Opa-locka police cruiser early Tuesday morning (video below).
The car was parked in the driveway of an Opa-locka police officer’s home in the Pembroke Pines area. The entire burglary was recorded by his home surveillance cameras.
The Pembroke Pines Police Department (PPPD) posted the video to YouTube and asked for the public’s assistance in identifying the now well-armed thief.
The surveillance video showed a man initially approached the parked police car at approximately 3:20 a.m., the Sun Sentinel reported.
He opened the unlocked passenger door, and climbed inside with a flashlight.
The man emerged with a ballistic vest emblazoned with the word “POLICE,” and momentarily moved towards the trunk before he returned and opened the passenger side door again.
The video also showed the burglar as he easily opened the trunk of the car and helped himself to an AR-15 rifle.
He slung the weapon across his body, and then carried it to another vehicle parked in the street, making sure to take the gun’s soft case with him.
The video showed the burglar making multiple trips back and forth between the police car and his getaway vehicle.
In addition to the weapon and marked vest, police said the culprit also made off with a stun gun, cartridges, three magazines loaded with .223/5.56 NATO ammunition, and a 16-round .45 caliber magazine, the Sun Sentinel reported.
“This is a very brazen burglar to have targeted a marked police vehicle, and having returned three times to remove items within, spending several minutes doing so,” Captain Al Xiques said in a YouTube sound bite released by the PPPD.
“We don’t believe that this burglar acted alone,” Capt. Xiques said.
According to police, “numerous” other vehicle break-ins were reported in the same neighborhood, and at least one other firearm was stolen.
Capt. Xiques said there were no signs of forced entry. He confirmed that the cruiser was left unlocked, but said he did not know if the trunk was also unlocked, WPLG reported.
Opa-Locka Police Chief James Dobson said the trunk can only be opened with a key, and that the officer had the key with him when the burglar broke into the vehicle’s trunk.
The chief said the officer did not violate protocol when he locked his weapon and ammunition in the trunk of the patrol car.
“He did everything that needed to be done,” Chief Dobson told WPLG. "Our main concern right now is to get that weapon off the street and back in hands of the police department."
Many other police departments have policies that prohibit leaving a weapon loose in an unattended police vehicle.
Captain William Malone, a former firearms instructor and SWAT team commander for DC’s Metro Transit Police Department, said officers should be held accountable for what they leave in their take-home vehicles overnight.
“If it wasn’t in a locking rack, it shouldn’t have been there,” Capt. Malone said.
“And if the department doesn’t have a policy banning this dangerous and irresponsible practice of leaving weapons in the car overnight, the chief is ultimately responsible,” he said.
Police are searching for the suspect, whom they described as approximately 5’10” and weighing about 160 pounds, with a full-sleeve tattoo on his right arm, the Miami Herald reported.
“Someone should recognize who this burglar is, which is why we are asking for assistance from the community,” Capt. Xiques said.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Pembroke Pines Police Department at 954-431-2200 or Broward Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS (8477).
PPPD posted the surveillance videos in a series of six segments. Blue Lives Matter combined them into one that can be watched below: