Thirty submachine guns and handguns were stolen last week from a building in downtown Los Angeles used by LAPD’s Special Weapons and Tactics unit.
The 15 MP-5 submachine guns and 15 colt .45 handguns were modified to fire small plastic bullets, similar to those used in paintball, LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said.
“These weapons are not functional,” Smith said. “They will not shoot bullets. You cannot shoot bullets without extensive modifications.”
Smith compared the modified weapons to "paintball guns."
Cmdr. Smith noted that while doable, converting a modified gun back to lethal use is no easy task. In many cases the effort would require the expertise of an armorer.
The weapons were moved to the secure training facility at 14th and San Pedro streets the night of Oct. 12 in preparation for a scheduled training the following day, according to an LAPD spokesman.
The guns, which were placed in a locked box on the first floor of the multi-story building, were discovered by a police officer Oct. 13 around 9 a.m.
A series of doors were broken into to retrieve the guns and burglars are thought to have prematurely abandoned the scene since electrical equipment was left stacked near a back door.
Commercial crime detectives are conducting an investigation into the burglary. The department’s Professional Standards Bureau is overseeing an internal investigation into any personnel issues.
LAPD hopes to retrieve the stolen weapons.
With the SWAT armory only a half-mile from the training site, questions arose as to why the weapons were housed overnight in a less-guarded storage area.
There are no security guards or surveillance at the training facility, according to LAPD.
Smith said questions regarding the transfer of the weaponry and accessibility of the weapons will be addressed in the internal investigation.
It is still unknown whether the burglary was the work of professionals or commercial burglars.
“This could be one of those commercial burglaries we see downtown sometimes where someone just happens to get lucky and get some of our weapons or it may be something more than that, Smith said. “We’re not sure yet.”