Prince Ge­orge’s County po­lice are ur­gently search­ing for an of­fi­cer’s lost as­sault ri­fle.

The Washington Post Sunday - - METRO - BY LYNH BUI lynh.bui@wash­post.com

Prince Ge­orge’s County po­lice are search­ing for a miss­ing depart­ment-is­sued ri­fle af­ter an of­fi­cer re­ported that he failed to put the weapon back into his cruiser when re­triev­ing a spare tire he lent to a col­league.

The semi­au­to­matic weapon was gone for al­most five hours be­fore the of­fi­cer re­al­ized it was miss­ing and a search for it be­gan, county po­lice said af­ter an in­quiry from The Wash­ing­ton Post.

Deputy chief Hank Staw­in­ski said track­ing down the weapon, which was un­loaded, is “pri­or­ity num­ber one” for the depart­ment.

“This is an im­por­tant piece of equip­ment,” Staw­in­ski said. “It is some­thing we’re very con­cerned about los­ing, and we’re very con­cerned about get­ting it back into our hands as quickly as pos­si­ble.”

The ri­fle went miss­ing shortly af­ter 6 p.m. Thurs­day when a pa­trol of­fi­cer pulled over in the 7000 block of Liv­ingston Road in the Oxon Hill area to re­trieve a spare tire from a fel­low of­fi­cer who ear­lier needed to re­pair two flats, po­lice said.

Af­ter un­load­ing items from the cruiser to put the spare back into the trunk, the of­fi­cer placed the AR-15-style ri­fle some­where near the cruiser, po­lice said. As the of­fi­cer reloaded his trunk, he grabbed every­thing but the ri­fle.

The of­fi­cer re­al­ized at about 11 p.m. Thurs­day that the ri­fle was miss­ing. Af­ter a brief search of his home and cruiser, the of­fi­cer re­ported the miss­ing weapon to his su­per­vi­sor, po­lice said. The depart­ment then launched a search for the ri­fle.

De­tec­tives be­lieve that some­one may have picked up the weapon af­ter the of­fi­cer left.

“It does ap­pear to be a deeply un­for­tu­nate mis­take,” Staw­in­ski said. “At this point, ev­ery pos­si­ble av­enue for re­cov­er­ing this ri­fle is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated.”

Po­lice had ear­lier re­ported that the of­fi­cer lost the ri­fle while chang­ing two tires and that the ri­fle had been miss­ing for nearly 12 hours be­fore it was re­ported. Af­ter fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion, they up­dated de­tails of the in­ci­dent Satur­day evening.

De­pend­ing on make and model, AR-15-style ri­fles are ca­pa­ble of fir­ing sev­eral rounds a sec­ond.

Only spe­cially trained of­fi­cers are is­sued one of the depart­ment’s roughly 300 as­sault weapons, Staw­in­ski said. The depart­ment as­signs the ri­fles to cer­tain pa­trol of­fi­cers in prepa­ra­tion for pos­si­ble ac­tive-shooter in­ci­dents, when it may take longer for some­one on the SWAT team to re­spond.

Depart­ment pol­icy re­quires weapons to be in an of­fi­cer’s phys­i­cal con­trol at all times. The depart­ment is re­view­ing the in­ci­dent to de­ter­mine what dis­ci­plinary ac­tion the of­fi­cer may face.

Any­one with in­for­ma­tion about the miss­ing weapon should con­tact po­lice, Staw­in­ski said.

“To the best of my rec­ol­lec­tion,” Staw­in­ski said, “we’ve never had a weapon go miss­ing like this.”

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