By Bill Kirk
---- — ANDOVER — A 16-year-old Lawrence boy is being charged with stealing two high-powered rifles from a car parked outside an FBI agent’s house on Canterbury Street late Wednesday or early Thursday morning, police said.
The boy, whose name is not being released because he is a juvenile, is facing charges of one count of larceny over $250, one count of larceny under $250 and two counts of breaking and entering into a motor vehicle during the nighttime.
Police believe he broke into several cars in the neighborhood, including one on the adjacent Lowell Street, as well as the agent’s unmarked SUV SWAT emergency response vehicle, which was parked in front of the agent’s house.
According to the Andover police log for Thursday, Nov. 7, a resident of Lowell Street called at 9:52 a.m. to report both of his cars were entered overnight and that items were stolen. It wasn’t until 7:40 p.m. Thursday that the larceny on Canterbury Street was recorded in the police log.
Police actually started working on the case much earlier than that, however.
Commander Charles Heseltine said yesterday that sometime during the late night hours of Wednesday or early Thursday morning, the teen, who may or may not have been alone, allegedly stole the guns out of the agent’s car.
He also broke into at least one car on Lowell Street, Heseltine said.
Thursday morning, Andover police detective Kevin Aufiero was able to lift a fingerprint off the Lowell Street car, which he then took to the FBI crime lab in Danvers, where it was fed into a national database of fingerprints.
A match came back linking the suspect in Lawrence to the crime.
Meanwhile, an FBI forensics team, working with Mass. State Police, got a fingerprint off the agent’s SUV. It also matched the suspect.
Andover police obtained a warrant for the teen’s arrest and officers working for local, state and federal agencies began a search in Lawrence.
Heseltine said at first, the search came up empty, as the suspect had recently moved out of the residence on file in the national database.
At 2 a.m. Friday, the firearms were recovered, Heseltine said. They were turned over to Andover detectives, FBI agents and state police. He would not say who turned in the weapons, but he did say that person would be getting an award. The FBI offered $20,000 for the recovery of the two rifles, and has said that it will be giving the award to a member of the public.
Lawrence Interim Police Chief James Fitzpatrick told The Eagle-Tribune Friday that the person who turned in the guns was a relative of the teenager. Other media outlets were reporting that it was a family friend who turned in the guns, described as Colt M16-A1 Rifle and a HS Precision Pro-Series 2000 Sniper Rifle. Magazines with an unknown amount of ammunition were also stolen and recovered, police said.
At 11 a.m. Friday, the 16-year-old juvenile turned himself in, with his father, to Andover police at the Lawrence police department, Heseltine said.
“We were there and met father and son at the door” of the Lawrence station, he said. “Then we brought him over here.”
The teen was interviewed by Andover police and the FBI for several hours before being taken to Lawrence District Court where he was scheduled to be arraigned yesterday afternoon.
“They are cooperating,” Heseltine said.
Carrie Kimball Monahan, spokeswoman for Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, said that by law, she could not comment on the case because the suspect is a juvenile.
Heseltine said the thefts this week are part of a larger, ongoing problem in Andover.
He said there were 80 car breaks in different parts of Andover since March of this year, a huge increase over previous years.
“We’ve had an ongoing problem,” he said. Quite often, people don’t even call to report the break-ins if nothing is stolen.
He said sometimes the perpetrators smash the window of a locked car and rifle through the car, while other times the vehicles are unlocked.
In the case of the FBI agent’s Suburban, Heseltine said, there were “no obvious signs of a break. I can’t say if it was locked or unlocked. The car is being looked at by the FBI forensic team.”
He added that there are “potentially other suspects” and that the suspect was being interviewed in part to determine the answer to that question. “We don’t know if he was working alone or with others,” Heseltine said.
Nonetheless, he said, “everybody needs to make sure their cars are locked. People think it’s sleepy Andover.”
Items being stolen include valuables such as laptops, iPhones, expensive stereos and even just loose change.
In this case, the stakes were a little higher, Heseltine said.
“Our biggest concern was that these guns were in the wrong hands,” Heseltine said.
“The most important thing was to get them off the streets and out of the hands of anyone who could do any damage with them,” Fitzpatrick said.
It is too early to say whether the agent responsible for the weapons will be disciplined, but an FBI spokesman says per agency protocol, an internal investigation will be conducted.
According to a statement by the FBI last night, “all federal law enforcement agents are authorized to carry weapons based on federal statutes.”
The statement went on to say that “the FBI’s policy allows active SWAT members to store firearms overnight in vehicles to facilitate readiness and operational needs. All losses of firearms are automatically the subject of an internal affairs investigation to determine whether the specific storage method complied with the FBI’s policy. Those investigations are conducted by officials from FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C.”