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Police say they'll catch gun thief despite mask

The burglar who struck Stone's Gun Shop on Monday made off with 13 to 14 handguns and was wearing a hood over his head when he was captured on surveillance video, Lt. Bimley West of the Merced Police Department said Wednesday.

While video images of the "smash and grab" burglar may be inconclusive thanks to the hood or mask, West said it's only a matter of time before he is caught.

When they make traffic stops, Merced police officers are ever mindful they may encounter someone who is heavily armed with guns from the purloined arsenal.

"Good, solid police investigation will still find our man," West said. "We'll find him. The guns will turn up somewhere."

Police believe the experienced burglar, not an amateur crook, used bolt cutters to penetrate steel bars on the front door of the gun shop about 2:30 a.m. Monday at 835 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, smash the glass and steal the guns.

All this took place in about a minute's time, West said.

The lieutenant is convinced the burglar won't keep the handguns for his own use.

He will either turn them over for money or perhaps give them to criminal street gang members, who can't purchase weapons legally.

"There's no good reason to use these weapons. He didn't steal them for something good; it's a bad thing," West said.

The gun shop burglar was particularly brazen because the store faces Martin Luther King Jr. Way, a busy thoroughfare at most times of the day and night.

It is believed the burglar may have been familiar with the gun shop layout or rehearsed what he was going to do later. He was aided by darkness and heavy fog at the time of the burglary, West said.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at 209 385-2485 or