The Washington State Patrol has been called in to investigate the apparent theft of a fully automatic assault rifle from the Grant County Sheriff’s Office armory.
Chief Deputy Ken Jones said the investigation has been under way since the M4 rifle was first reported missing from a locked cell in the county’s old jail in Ephrata, which was temporarily being used for storage. To access the cell, someone would need several keys, Jones said.
Jones would not rule out the possibility of an inside job, or the possibility that an outsider was able to access the cell and take the rifle.
The department has accounted for all of its other firearms, he said.
The State Patrol was called in after the sheriff’s armorer exhausted his efforts to track down the firearm. Deputies have been required to allow inspections of their vehicles and their personal and department-issued firearms. So far, the case remains unsolved, Jones said.
“One thing that is certain, is that this department will take full, compete and swift action against the person responsible,” Jones said. “We are not hiding from this.”
The weapon was among 24 being temporarily stored in a barred and locked cell in the old jail. The armorer discovered it was missing during a rifle training class late last year, Jones said.
The rifle — a .223-caliber weapon identical to the rifle issued to U.S. military troops — can be switched from single-fire mode to a fully-automatic assault rifle with a fire-rate of more than 700 rounds per minute.