SWAT rifle stolen from Tempe officer's personal car

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Police are searching for the person or people who stole a SWAT rifle from a car belonging to a Tempe police officer.

It happened early on News Year's Day when the car, the officer's personal vehicle, was parked on the Arizona State University campus in Tempe. According to Sgt. Steve Carbajal of the Tempe Police Department, the car was burglarized between 4:45 a.m. and 6:20 a.m., while the off-duty officer was playing basketball nearby.

The rifle is a SWAT-issue AR-15 and is similar to the one pictured above.

First built by ArmaLite for the U.S. military, the design for the high-powered AR-15 was sold to Colt in 1959. Used by the U.S. military under the M16 designation, the AR-15 has been marketed by Colt for civilian and law-enforcement sales since 1963.

The original AR-15 is lightweight, weighing less than 6 pounds with an empty magazine. The heavy-barrel design that is common with today's civilian AR-15s is considerably heavier at about 8.5 pounds.

While the military's M16 and the semi-automatic AR-15 sold to civilians, which is made by dozens of manufacturers, look similar on the outside, their inner workings are different.

There are no federal restrictions on AR-15 ownership in the U.S., although variants with certain features were restricted as part of the now-expired Assault Weapons Ban. When the AWB expired in September 2004, those features became legal in most states.

At this point, police do not have any suspects in the theft and the Tempe Police Department says it will not release any information about the officer who left the rifle in his vehicle.

"Our code of conduct states that you are responsible for caring for your assigned equipment," Carbajal said. "In this case, we're going to look into that. There are still a lot of questions we want to ask."

If any policy violations are found, the unnamed officer could face penalties ranging from a written reprimand to dismissal from the force.

If you have any information about the case, call Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS (948-6377), 1-800-343-TIPS (8477) or 480-TESTIGO (837-8446).