CHAMPAIGN — When it comes to property crimes, there are certain stolen items that can make even the toughest police officer cringe.
Like 24 brand-new handguns taken all at once.
That's how many guns thieves made off with in a smash-and-grab break-in last summer at the Rural King Supply store, 913 W. Marketview Drive, C. A week earlier, a thief made off with a single rifle from the same store.
"We hate it when one gets stolen," said Urbana police Sgt. Dan Morgan. "When there's a large number in a single incident, it's a concern because of the flooding of better quality guns in the area."
Champaign police Sgt. Dave Griffet has been keeping a running tally of the Rural King guns that have resurfaced following Aug. 25 and Sept. 3 break-ins at the store. So far, seven of the handguns have been recovered: four in Urbana and three in Champaign on five different occasions. And of that number, at least two were in the hands of men with gang affiliations.
In none of the incidents involving recovered guns was anyone shot, but two men were beaten and robbed in Urbana.
The latest recovery came Tuesday afternoon when Gabriel Chaney, 20, of Champaign, was arrested for allegedly threatening a teen with a Ruger .357 inside the Popeye's Chicken at 910 Bloomington Road, C. He was charged with unlawful use of a weapon by a felon and aggravated assault.
Griffet said police have been investigating the Rural King burglaries since they happened but have yet to learn who was responsible, even after recovering the stolen handguns. The people from whom they were recovered shed no light on the underlying burglary, he said.
"There were various makes, models and calibers," he said. "They were all taken in the one event after the rifle."
In both break-ins, the store was apparently entered in the early morning hours through an overhead service door in what used to be the automotive department when the store was a Walmart, Griffet said.
"They broke out the glass in the doors and climbed in and entered the business to go in to steal. With the rifle, the person who came in did so in a similar fashion, ran behind the counter, grabbed the rifle and ran out," he said. That burglary happened at 3:45 a.m.
Two men with their faces disguised were responsible for the theft of the handguns in the Sept. 3 burglary. It happened about 2:15 a.m.
"They came in in the old automotive area, went to hardware, grabbed a sledge hammer and used it to break into the gun cases. There were alarms that did go off. However, the time delay is what allowed them to escape," Griffet said.
Police obtained surveillance video of both crimes, he said.
Here are a few known details surrounding the recovery of the other six guns:
— Sept. 19: Champaign police Sgt. Dennis Baltzell developed information that Vincent Mosley, 27, had one of the stolen guns at his home in the 1200 block of North Walnut Street in Champaign and was also selling drugs. In a court-authorized search, Baltzell found a .40-caliber semi-automatic and about 3 grams of crack cocaine. Mosley is due back in court March 4 on charges of armed violence, unlawful possession of a weapon and possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance.
— Sept. 30, 2:40 a.m.: Urbana police responded to a shots fired call in the 2400 block of Prairie Green. Inside an apartment building hallway, an officer could hear a gun slide being pulled back. The officer made contact but none of the several adults present said they knew anything about a gun. The officer got a search warrant and found three guns, a SIG Sauer, a Walther, and a Ruger in the toilet tank. There were no arrests made and the guns were returned to Champaign police.
— Jan. 5: Champaign police stopped a car for traffic violations and after smelling burned cannabis, searched it. They found a loaded Glock pistol under the front passenger seat and a backpack in the trunk with .40 caliber ammunition.
Arrested were Brandon Ward, 22, and Davion Hedrick, 24, both of Champaign. Ward is due back in court April 8 on a charge of possession of a stolen firearm. Hedrick was charged with possession of a stolen firearm and unlawful use of weapons by a felon. He's due in court Feb. 19.
— Jan. 12: A Glock stolen from Rural King was recovered from Andrew Bell, 19, of Champaign. He was one of five men charged with armed robbery and aggravated vehicular hijacking for allegedly beating and robbing two men of cash, a cellphone and a pickup truck on Hunter Street about 3 a.m. that day. Urbana police also recovered a second handgun that was not linked to Rural King and a BB gun. Bell is due back in court Tuesday.
Griffet said the retail value of the 24 handguns was put at $11,167. The stolen rifle was valued at $389.
"Many are being sold for a couple hundred to a few hundred dollars on the street when their true value is anywhere form $350 to $500," the officer observed.
Griffet said — and Scot Kersten, Rural King's vice president of marketing and advertising confirmed — that the store had taken steps to improve the security of its weapons. Kersten declined to give any details or to say if other Rural King stores in central Illinois have had similar problems.
Anyone with information on any of the stolen weapons is encouraged to call Champaign police at 217-351-4545 or Champaign County Crimestoppers at 217-373-8477. Information may also be sent anonymously online at http://www.373tips.com or by cellphone text message by sending CCTIP plus the information to CRIMES (274637).
Crimestoppers will pay a reward if the information leads to an arrest. Cash rewards are also paid for information on other felony crimes or fugitives in the Champaign County area.