Andover police said Friday that they recovered two high-powered rifles that were stolen from an FBI SWAT vehicle sometime overnight Wednesday, and a 16-year-old from Lawrence was charged in the theft.
The teenager, who was not identified, was questioned at the Andover police station with his father, and he was ultimately charged as a juvenile with two counts of breaking and entering to a vehicle in the nighttime, larceny over $250, and larceny under $250.
He was brought before a juvenile court judge Friday afternoon, but the outcome of the appearance was not known. Juvenile court proceedings are confidential.
The two rifles, a Colt M16-A1 rifle and an HS Precision Pro-Series 2000 Sniper Rifle, were turned over to police in Lawrence at about 2 a.m. Friday.
Authorities did not identify the person who brought the weapons to police, but authorities plan to issue a $20,000 reward that was offered for their return, said Andover police Commander Charles Heseltine.
“Somebody will receive it,” Heseltine said.
The two rifles were stolen overnight Wednesday into Thursday morning from a SWAT vehicle parked at an FBI agent’s home in Andover.
Several other vehicles in the same neighborhood were broken into around the same time, Heseltine said.
“We’ve had problems in the past with vehicles being broken into, so this isn’t unusual for us — it’s been kind of widespread,” Heseltine said. “All through town and in surrounding communities, it’s been an ongoing problem.”
Authorities did not identify the agent who was responsible for the weapons.
The theft sparked an intense search and an investigation.
Heseltine said that Andover Detective Kevin Aufiero was able to lift a fingerprint from one of the other vehicles that was broken into Wednesday night, and authorities matched it in a State Police database to the Lawrence juvenile. Then, authorities found a matching print on the FBI SWAT vehicle, and a warrant was issued for the juvenile’s arrest.
The juvenile was located in Lawrence Thursday, Heseltine said. “The subject was brought back to the Andover Police Department with his father, and spoke with detectives here.”
The FBI also said that it has initiated an investigation into whether the agent was authorized to store the weapons in the SWAT vehicle, and whether they were properly secured. The bureau said in a statement that FBI policy allows SWAT members to store firearms overnight in vehicles to “facilitate readiness and operational needs.”
“All losses of firearms are automatically the subject of an internal affairs investigation to determine whether the specific storage method complied with the FBI’s policy,” the bureau said in the statement, adding that the investigation is being conducted by FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Under state gun laws, and protocol followed by other police agencies, a gun can be stored in a car as long as it is in a locked trunk or container, and it is unloaded.
Heseltine said he would not comment on whether the guns were properly stored, saying he would defer at this time to the FBI investigation.
He said the police SWAT vehicle was taken by FBI officials as part of the investigation.Milton J. Valencia can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.