NEAL P. GOSWAMI
BENNINGTON -- Local police and federal agents are investigating the theft of 13 handguns following a quick smash-and-grab at a local store early Friday morning.
Bennington Police Lt. Lloyd Dean said officers responded to the Charles Wells Guns and Ammo Store on Northside Drive after the store's alarm was activated. When officers arrived just before 3 a.m., they found the glass door to the store had been smashed.
Officers found a broken handgun case inside the store and several weapons appeared to be missing. A total of 13 handguns were taken, according to Dean. The guns have a combined value of about $8,500, he said.
Surveillance video from the store shows a male wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt, black pants and gloves. The suspect was carrying a gray duffel bag, Dean said.
Police sought to collect all physical evidence at the scene, Dean said. The suspect appeared to have taken steps to ensure he didn't leave evidence behind, however.
"He was wearing heavy gloves and it looked like the gloves were kind of taped to his sleeves," Dean said.
The suspect approached the store from the north side in the area of the Best Western motel. Dean said he also left in the same direction. Police are looking for additional surveillance video, Dean said.
The suspect was able to gain entry into the store and grab the 13 guns quickly, an indication the suspect knew the store's layout, Dean said.
"He was in and out in 45 seconds. They were familiar with the interior of the gun store," Dean said. "He definitely staked it out, in my opinion. Prior knowledge. He was in and out in no time."
Local investigators will be working with federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives because more than 10 guns were stolen.
Store owner Charles Wells said his gun business had never before been broken into. An adjacent gas station has been robbed before, however.
"When they told me the (alarm) said glass break, I knew there might have been a problem," he said.
The alarm system worked "absolutely perfectly," Wells said, and police responded quickly. "They couldn't have done anything better. Very fast and responsive. You just hope they catch the son of a gun."
Nobody appeared to have been staking out the store, but most people gaze at the handgun case when they enter the store, he said. "People look at all the handguns. Nobody's come in here wearing a hoodie with a pair of gloves on taped up with duct tape," he said.
Wells said he is concerned about what the thief will do with the stolen guns. "You always worry where these guns are going to go," he said. "Some of them are pretty big caliber."
The stolen handguns are:
-- Smith & Wesson model 500 revolver, with a 4-inch barrel
-- Smith & Wesson model 500 revolver, with a 6.5-inch barrel
-- Taurus Model 992 combination revolver, .22 Caliber
-- Taurus Model 454 Casull 5 shot revolver with a 6.5-inch barrel
-- Taurus Model PT845, .45 ACP caliber semi-auto pistol
-- Taurus Model Tracker Revolver .17 caliber
-- Charter Arms Lavender Lady .38 caliber snub nose revolver
-- Charter Arms revolver, .38 caliber
-- Ruger LCR-22 revolver, .22 caliber
-- Ruger Red Hawk revolver, .44 mag
-- Ruger 3318 SR-9, 9mm Semi-auto pistol
-- Ruger P89, 9mm Pistol,
-- Glock 9mm semi-auto Pistol