GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — One of the four teenagers arrested in two weekend gun shop thefts in Kent County already has a weapons conviction from when he was 15. But investigators aren’t exactly describing the thefts as the work of professionals.
Instead, they are teens — one only 14 — looking for quick, easy hits, perhaps even copycats inspired by a theft several days earlier at a Cascade Township gun shop, Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young said. The guns weren’t likely going far.
“What we are seeing more often is that the guns are staying local, they are being used in crimes that happen later on,” the sheriff said Thursday.
The teenagers are suspected of breaking into Armory Valentine in Kentwood and stealing five guns at 2:30 a.m. Sunday. A half hour later and 24 miles away, they allegedly stole 19 guns from Imperial Gunsworx right in the middle of downtown Sparta.
But detectives don’t believe they had anything to do with stealing guns two hours after that, at 5 a.m. Sunday, from Long Range Archery and Firearms in Holland Township. They also don’t believe they’re behind the theft of 23 guns from Barracks 616 in Cascade Township on July 10. That, the sheriff said, could be a different group altogether. Perhaps, she said, three separate groups could be behind the four thefts.
In all four cases, thieves smashed door windows.
Wyoming police arrested three of the teens Monday after finding nine guns stolen from Gunworx in a backpack. Detectives later found more guns during searches, though some of the weapons still haven’t been recovered, the sheriff said.
The oldest teen, an adult, is in federal custody awaiting charges. The others, the 14-year-old and two 16-year-olds, are being held at Kent County Juvenile Detention Center.
“It’s disheartening, to say the least, that a 14-year-old would be that comfortable, No. 1, committing a crime and two, having that crime deal specifically with weapons,” the sheriff said.
Prosecutors say they plan to charge the two 16-year-olds as adults.
Juvenile court records show one of the 16-year-olds, of Grand Rapids, has a long criminal history including assaulting a police officer in 2017 and being in possession of a stolen car and a stolen gun last year. A judge placed him on probation to live with his father.