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Who stole 31 handguns from a Compton city vault? Federal authorities are investigating

The Beretta used to be the standard issue handgun for Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Thirty-one guns from Compton’s disbanded police department vanished from a city vault last year, and now federal authorities are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Los Angeles field division announced the reward Tuesday. Officials said 23 Beretta .40-caliber pistols and eight Glock .40-caliber pistols had been stolen from an old city building at 600 N. Alameda St. between March 6 and Aug. 31, 2017.

The city began storing about 200 weapons from the old Compton Police Department in a vault in that building after the department was dismantled and law enforcement responsibilities were contracted out to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in 2000.

When the Sheriff’s Department conducted an inventory of the guns in March 2017, all the weapons were there. But when they returned in August to move the stockpile to another storage spot, the 31 handguns were missing.

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An ATF spokeswoman said the guns are believed to be service weapons.

Daryl Thomas, the resident agent in charge at the Long Beach field office, said the vault is in working order and there was no sign of damage to it.

Compton’s city manager did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The missing weapons is just one problem facing Compton City Hall.

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A state audit released this month found that Compton officials overpaid themselves, charged questionable trips on city-issued credit cards and failed to safeguard taxpayer money, resulting in one staffer stealing millions of dollars over several years. Compton’s weak financial oversight and rampant overspending turned a general fund surplus of $22.4 million a decade ago into a deficit of $42.7 million just three years later, the audit found. Even after officials adopted a plan to repay the debt in 2014, the deficit increased by $6.4 million the next year.

Fiscal mismanagement is not a new problem in Compton, where former Mayor Omar Bradley was convicted last year of misappropriating public funds. Current Mayor Aja Brown took office in 2013 on a good governance platform and vowed to bring financial stability to a municipality that had run through city managers.

The investigation into the missing weapons is being conducted by ATF. Anyone with information about the missing firearms is urged to call (800) ATF-GUNS or the ATF Long Beach office at (818) 265-3760.


UPDATES:

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4:15 p.m.: This article was updated with new information from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

This article was originally published at 2:05 p.m.


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