Audit: 50 firearms missing at MCSO
Review was ordered after gun stolen from office was used in I-17 shooting
At least 50 firearms are lost or have been stolen from the Maricopa County Sheriff ’s Office, according to an ongoing internal audit.
Sheriff Paul Penzone announced the findings Friday. He had ordered the audit after a gunman used a stolen Sheriff ’s Office gun in a shootout with police on Interstate 17 in November.
That man, who officers shot and killed, had two MCSO weapons, police said.
The number of missing or stolen firearms could increase as the Sheriff’s Office continues its audit, Penzone said. He added that the guns were stolen or went missing before he became sheriff in January 2017, indicating it happened during former Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s 24year tenure.
Still, Penzone didn’t say how long the weapons have been missing, as the audit is ongoing.
Penzone said among the 50 firearms missing are 29 fully automatic weapons, 20 short-barrel shotguns and one short-barrel rifle.
In connection to the audit of the weapons, Penzone also said he has temporarily suspended the office’s Qualified Armed Posse, which allows armed civilians to patrol with deputies.
He said he did this because a separate audit found that of the 235 enrolled and working members, four had completed all six stages to qualify for the posse.
This, too, came from poor management from “past administrations,” he said.
Those stages include doing a background check, personal history interview, a polygraph test, a urine test, a psychological exam and being certified to use and legally use a firearm.
While Penzone didn’t mention Arpaio’s name, he insisted the oversights in weapons and the qualifications of the posse members occurred before he took office in 2017. Some of those posse members however have continued to work under Penzone.
“We must be an organization of high integrity and ethics in everything that we do,” Penzone said, including in acquiring and maintaining firearms. “We will meet the highest standards.”
He apologized to the armed posse members who may have been blindsided by the temporary suspension of the program. But Penzone said because of the failures of the previous administration, he can’t continue to overlook the lapses.
In order to recover the missing or stolen guns, he said that his office, along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, will send letters to 7,300 former and current MCSO employees asking them to return the weapons or, if they have information about weapons’ whereabouts, to notify authorities.
Penzone said those who may have received a weapon as a gift not knowing it was stolen or belonged to MCSO are going to be asked to return it immediately.
For the posse members who wish to continue to volunteer once the program is reopened, he said, they have up to 60 days to complete the mandatory process.
The posse is something Arpaio prided himself in. But allowing people to volunteer without going through the qualified procedures was a sign the former sheriff used the posse members for political theater, Penzone said.
Penzone had ordered an audit for
his office’s weapons after Phoenix police found Arnaldo Caraveo, 27, had been in possession of two stolen Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office firearms — a rifle and a long gun — when he got in the shootout with officers in November.
Caraveo, who was killed in the shootout on Interstate 17 with Department of Public Safety troopers, had a history of trafficking in stolen property, some of which may have included firearms, according to court records.
Arpaio told in November that his office took responsibility once he found out about the missing or stolen weapons in a previous audit in 2016.
In that audit, 29 weapons were identified as either stolen or missing from the Sheriff’s Office sometime between 2010 and 2015.
“My only comment is that when some weapons weren’t accounted for, my staff took appropriate action,” Arpaio said in November. “I’m not sheriff anymore. I’m not privy to all the files, and I’m not privy to the investigation.”
Apparently, that audit didn’t identify all the missing weapons, Penzone said on Friday.
A search-warrant affidavit filed in Maricopa County Superior Court shows that Mesa police had received a tip from a confidential informant in October 2012 indicating Caraveo was “involved in the trafficking of stolen property and was responsible for organizing burglary crews to obtain property to sell, with an emphasis on obtaining firearms and highend electronics.”
Officers did not confiscate any weapons during the search of Caraveo’s property, according to the search warrant return, but they did seize other items, such as electronics, drug paraphernalia and marijuana.
Caraveo was sentenced in 2014 to three years in the Arizona Department of Corrections for second-degree burglary and aggravated assault. He was released In April 2017.
Police arrested and jailed Caraveo again Sept. 21 in Mesa after officers pulled him over for speeding.
When they stopped him, he ran from the car, stumbled and fell under a bush, court records said.
Police took him into custody and found two handguns nearby, including one that was stolen out of Phoenix.
He was arrested on suspicion of theft, possession of drug paraphernalia and weapons violations.
The case was pending in Maricopa County Superior Court when he got in the shootout and was killed.
Sheriff Paul Penzone