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Thieves take 32 handguns, 2 rifles in pawn shop burglary during riots

Southside Pawn and Jewelry (Southside Pawn and Jewelry /Facebook)

Up to 10 thieves worked together to burglarize an Affton pawn shop over the weekend and steal 32 handguns and two rifles, police said Monday.

The crime was reported at 1:10 a.m. Sunday at Southside Pawn and Jewelry, at 8101 Gravois Road. Police have made no arrests and haven’t recovered any of the weapons.

The burglary occurred a day after the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sent an email alert to federally licensed firearms dealers that “possible civil unrest” may result in looting of businesses. The ATF urged those businesses to secure firearms and report suspicious activity to police.

It wasn’t clear how the pawn shop had been storing its weapons. The owner of the shop declined to discuss the burglary Monday when contacted by the Post-Dispatch. Firearms were displayed in a glass counter during the day, but a police spokesman wasn’t sure how the shop stored them at night after closing.

St. Louis County police Sgt. Benjamin Granda said weapons were “secured in display cabinets” but didn’t know if the cabinets were made of glass. “Based on the structure’s layout and other factors present,” Granda said, “it seems like it was responsible. The suspects took remarkable steps to carry out their crimes.”

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A nearby resident who first notified the Post-Dispatch about the burglary said she was concerned about guns ending up in the hands of rioters.

“I’m worried they burglarized the gun store, period, and that it’s near me,” said the woman, who didn’t want her name used for safety reasons. “We don’t know how much worse this rioting will get, and I have no way to protect my home.”

Granda said he doesn’t know who may be behind the burglary.

“The relationship, if any, to the rioting is unknown at this time,” Granda said in an email. “Would be presumptuous to make that connection without more information.”

Sunday was the fourth night of protests in the St. Louis area stemming from the death of a black man while in police custody in Minneapolis. Police used tear gas on protesters in Ferguson and arrested three protesters in Richmond Heights, and several businesses were vandalized across the St. Louis area.

The St. Louis County Police Department’s burglary unit and the ATF are investigating the pawn shop burglary.

Granda said the suspects apparently got into the store by hurling concrete to shatter a window.

Granda said as many as 10 thieves in six vehicles may have been involved in stealing the weapons.

St. Louis police, concerned the suspects might be heading into the city, issued an alert for officer safety on Sunday.

Three of the cars were white vehicles and three were dark-colored, but police weren’t sure of a make and model of the cars.

Anyone with information about the burglary is asked to call St. Louis County police at 636-529-8210. Tipsters who want to remain anonymous can call CrimeStoppers at 866-371-8477.

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© 2020 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch