By Mark E. Vogler
---- — ANDOVER — The Boston office of the FBI discovered yesterday that it had become the latest victim in a series of recent auto burglaries to hit town, losing two high-powered rifles from one of the agency’s SWAT emergency response vehicles parked overnight in a residential area on Lowell Street.
The bureau offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of the military style weapons — a Colt M16-A1 Rifle and a HS Precision Pro-Series 2000 Sniper Rifle.
“These are powerful weapons that belong in trained hands,” FBI agent Damon Katz said in an interview last night.
“They’re (the rifles) used in training and FBI operations, and we need the media’s help and the public help to get these weapons back,” he said.
The rifles were stolen from the unmarked FBI vehicle some time between the period of Wednesday night and yesterday morning, according to Katz. He declined to say whether the vehicle was locked or unlocked. Other items were stolen in the break
“The vehicle wasn’t in Andover related to any investigation. It was just parked in the neighborhood overnight,” Katz said.
Andover police are investigating other recent car breaks in the area.
“This is one of two in the Lowell Street area, between Route 28 and Beacon Street,” Andover Police Lt. Edward Guy said last night.
“The theft of any firearm is dangerous as far as the community is concerned. There is always a concern about them winding up in the wrong hands. We’re working closely with the FBI in a joint investigation,” he said.
Guy stressed that the FBI is the lead agency in the probe and declined to discuss further details about the burglary.
U.S. Army troops used the Colt M16-A1 Rifle in jungle warfare in South Vietnam in 1963 and the weapon later became the military’s standard service rifle of the Vietnam War. The sniper rifle has become a popular weapon of choice for the military and law enforcement agencies in the U.S. as well as other countries around the world.
“The FBI continues to devote significant resources to locate these weapons, determine who stole them and remove them from the possession of the unauthorized individual(s) who may have them,” the FBI said in a press release.
“All local, state and federal law enforcement agencies were quickly made aware of the theft through various means including the Commonwealth Fusion Center and Boston Regional Intelligence Center,” the statement said.
“Investigating the theft along with the FBI and Andover Police are members of the Violent Crimes Task Force, which is composed of the Somerville, Malden, Saugus, Cambridge, Boston and Massachusetts State Police. Other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies have offered and provided their assistance to locate the stolen weapons.”
Anyone with information should call FBI Boston immediately at 617-742-5533 or Andover Police Department at 978-475-0411.