An Orange County sheriff's deputy lost his AR-15 assault rifle Tuesday after placing it on the trunk lid of his patrol car and driving off, a sheriff's official said Wednesday.
The unnamed deputy was starting his shift around 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Southwest Operations Division's Aliso Viejo station and preparing his equipment for patrol, according to sheriff's spokesman Lt. Jeff Hallock.
The deputy had placed the rifle, inside its case, on the trunk lid of his patrol car when he became distracted and drove off to conduct his patrol shift in Aliso Viejo and Laguna Hills. It wasn't until 3:15 a.m. Wednesday, nearly eight hours later, that the lawman realized his weapon was missing.
A search for the missing rifle was launched immediately.
"Numerous resources including reserve deputies, bloodhounds and investigative personnel immediately began a search of the area in and around the station as well as retracing the streets he drove on," the sheriff's department said in a prepared release.
The search for the rifle continues, and the sheriff's department appealed to the public Wednesday for help in locating the weapon.
The rifle is described as a black, semiautomatic, .223-caliber Colt AR-15. It was inside a black nylon rifle bag along with three loaded magazines. The rifle's serial number is A0091856.
"Anyone with information or who locates the weapon is asked to immediately call the Orange County Sheriff's Department at (714) 647-7000," the department said. "Anonymous tips may also be submitted to Orange County Crime Stoppers at 855-TIP-OCCS (885-847-6227).
The loss of the rifle search comes as deputies from the same department launched an intense probe into the disappearance of three inmates who escaped the agency's lockup facility in downtown Santa Ana.
The absence of the men -- Jonathan Tieu, 20, Bac Duong, 43, and Hossein Nayeri, 37 -- went unnoticed for at least 16 hours Friday before jail staff discovered they were missing during a nightly count of inmates.
Authorities are still looking for the escapees.
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