LOS ANGELES -- Dozens of handguns and shotguns were among items stolen by thieves who raided cargo containers aboard trains near downtown Los Angeles for months, authorities said.
Police arrested three people last summer carrying new .22-caliber handguns, The Los Angeles Times reported Saturday. A trace of the weapons revealed they came from a batch of 36 handguns reported missing as they were being shipped by train to Tennessee, police officials said.
One of the suspects said the guns had come from cargo trains in LA's Lincoln Heights rail yards, where widespread thefts have been reported. Shortly afterward, LA police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arrested two other suspects with shotguns. Those weapons were determined to be part of a missing shipment of 46 shotguns, the Times reported.
Only a handful of the 82 guns known to have been stolen from trains passing through Lincoln Heights have been recovered. Investigators are not yet sure how many other weapons may have been pilfered, Capt. German Hurtado told the Times.
“I’ve got 24 years in LAPD, ex-military, secret clearance and I have to wait 10 days to get a new firearm and these guys are going into these containers with no locks and getting guns,” said Hurtado. “These guns were unguarded, unprotected ... God knows how many guns have been stolen that way.”
The cargo thefts gained national attention earlier this month after local TV stations showed images of thousands of discarded boxes from stolen packages blanketing the tracks.
No mention of the stolen guns was made when Gov. Gavin Newsom recently led a cleanup of the rail yards and promised state coordination in tracking down the thieves.