GILROY, Calif. - Police in southern Santa Clara County are concerned a recent gun theft could be used to commit crimes. And, this isn’t any gun, it belonged to the city’s police chief.
“You never want to be the one on the news talking about a mistake that you’ve made that is drawing this kind of attention,” said Chief Scot Smithee, as he stood outside Gilroy police headquarters.
A 34-year Gilroy police veteran, he’s now swamped under a mountain of work, and scrutiny, following the theft of his service gun, badge, and work laptop. He said the crime happened while he was in Modesto April 27 attending his sister’s college graduation. Security officers outside were checking for weapons, so he walked back to his Ford F-250 King Ranch pick-up, and buried the police gear deep in the center console.
“There’s kind of been a movement in different venues like that lately, where they don’t care if you’re a police officer or not, they don’t want weapons in that venue,” said Smithee.
When he returned to the parking lot from the ceremony, the truck and everything inside were gone. Four days later, Modesto police arrested 36-year-old Louis Grubeck as he was getting into the stolen truck. But the glock .45 caliber service weapon, the badge, and police laptop haven’t turned up..
“That initial thought when you realize it’s gone is not a pleasant one. My weapon, my badge, those are not things you want to lose.”
California penal code 25610 requires anyone transporting a gun, to make sure it’s unloaded, and do so in the vehicle’s trunk or in a secure container, such as a lockbox. Failure to do so carries a 1,000 dollar fine. Officials with the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office say they discourage their deputies from transporting weapons in their personal vehicles. But if they do so, they must comply with state law.
“I’m very worried about (the stolen gun). I would have much rather gotten my firearm back and not retrieve my truck than the other way around.”
The chief now faces fall out from city officials, for violating departmental policy. The city administrator is set to meet with an external lawyer to determine punishment for the department’s top brass..
“You can’t take special treatment when you’re the chief. Because if this happens again in the future with one of my officers, how can I, with good conscious, then deal with that situation?” he said.
Gilroy will consult with other departments on an appropriate punishment. Smithee also said this experience has given him a greater understanding of how victims of crime feel.