MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Memphis police said experience with a previous case helped them recover six weapons, including three automatic assault rifles, from thieves who stole the small arsenal from a North Carolina police van.
Thieves in a stolen vehicle broke into a van belonging to the Wake County, N.C., SWAT team while it was parked Monday in the parking lot of Interstate Bar-B-Que near Interstate 55 in Memphis.
The officers were passing through Memphis on their way to the World SWAT Challenge in Little Rock, Ark.
Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin put together a team that had worked on a similar theft in 1997, when an FBI SWAT van was stolen with sophisticated weapons, including grenade launchers.
Those weapons were recovered and the suspects charged. Within 48 hours of the theft, police had arrested Brian Bowles, 21, and Clent Green, 23, and recovered three shotguns and three fully automatic, $12,000 SG-551 military-grade assault rifles that can fire up to 600 rounds a minute.
The search for two semiautomatic handguns and several other suspects continues, police said.
Green was arrested on eight outstanding warrants for vehicle break-ins, and Bowles was charged with the theft of the stolen vehicle from Bally's Casino in Tunica, Miss.
Several other suspects have been detained and were being questioned, police said. Police said they believe Green has operated a crew of thieves that target work vans, which often hold valuable tools, and vehicles with out-of-state plates.
Police said the suspects didn't know the van contained police weapons until they broke into it.