Multiple agencies are investigating after law enforcement vehicles across Burke, Caldwell and Catawba counties were broken into.
Hickory Police Chief Thurman Whisnant would not comment on what items were stolen, if any, from the vehicles, saying, “This might hurt us in the investigation.”
But the Caldwell County Sheriff's Office told news partner WSOC-TV that a Hickory Police Department car parked in Caldwell County had a Barnes Precision Rifle, a shirt and pants with the HPD insignia, a bulletproof vest, a drone, ammunition in the weapon and hearing protection taken from it.
Another HPD car had four AR-15 magazines stolen out of it, according to an Aug. 3 incident report from Long View Police Department.
Whisnant did note he is hopeful the situation will be resolved soon, so all the details can be shared.
“This is an important case to us and we do not want to hinder the SBI,” he said.
Burke County also had a patrol vehicle targeted, but the thief wasn’t able to steal anything from it, said Sheriff Steve Whisenant.
“We had sent out an email when we started hearing about these to [deputies to] make sure you secure your equipment,” Whisenant told reporters Monday afternoon. “The marked patrol car the sheriff’s office had broken into, that officer had, indeed, taken all of his equipment into his home so there was nothing stolen out of Burke County.”
But another Hickory Police cruiser that was broken into in eastern Burke County was not so lucky. It had some items stolen from it between 11 p.m. Friday and 10:15 a.m. Saturday, though what items were taken were not made public, according to a release from the Burke County Sheriff’s Office.
A volunteer firefighter’s car also was broken into on July 30. The windows of the vehicle were broken and two guns were stolen, the release said.
Whisenant said the break-ins were brazen.
“It’s very brazen for somebody to go to an officer’s house and break into a window with a rock or whatever they may use, a hammer, and … knowing that there’s an officer inside that residence that has some guns, and most officers multiple guns.”
Whisenant said it’s typical for BCSO deputies to leave their weapons in their cars.
“Most of them keep their items in their car,” Whisenant said. “We have gun-secured devices that we can keep our guns secured into the cars. I don’t think anybody has had a long gun stolen from one of those devices.”
While police don’t know the intent behind the theft, Whisenant said it’s concerning.
“Well, obviously, that’s somebody that’s pretty brazen in marked patrol cars, and it gives us some concern that what their intentions are, especially if they’re getting ballistic carriers, body vests that have police IDs on them,” Whisenant said.
He said BCSO is working with the other police departments impacted, the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation and federal authorities to investigate the matter.
"We’re taking this very seriously,” Whisenant said. “I would encourage any citizen that knows anything, nobody wants criminals out here posing as law enforcement officers. So I would hope anybody would be willing to share any information that they have to help us apprehend these people.”
Anyone with any information is asked to call BCSO at 828-438-5500 or Morganton/Burke Crimestoppers at 828-437-3333. All Crimestoppers tips are anonymous, and anyone with information leading to an arrest may receive a cash reward, the BCSO release said.
Hickory Daily Record Editor Eric Millsaps contributed to this report.
Chrissy Murphy is a staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 828-432-8941. Follow @cmurphyMNH on Twitter. Jordan Hensley is a Hickory Daily Record staff writer and can be reached at email@example.com.