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Posted: 8/28/2004 3:16:27 AM EDT
Owner of stolen guns says theft could have happened years ago
His last check of weapons was in December 2001

Ryan Kim
San Francisco Chronicle
August 27, 2004

A cache of 130 guns reported stolen from a Millbrae storage facility was owned by a small Santa Cruz County real estate and financial company that also offered gun-brokering services, helping owners transfer firearms to other buyers, authorities said Thursday.

Kenneth Doolittle, owner of Monterey Bay Investments Corp. of Aptos, reported to Millbrae police Aug. 19 that the guns had been stolen from Annie's Attic Self Storage, police said. On Wednesday, Doolittle contacted the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which began its own investigation.

Doolittle told authorities the weapons apparently had been stolen sometime after December 2001, the last time he says he checked in on his guns.

Federal officials offered few details about the theft, which included revolvers, pistols, rifles and shotguns. The weapons were valued at more than $100,000.

"The guns are in the hands of criminals who stole them, and if they go to individuals who are prohibited from buying guns, that's a concern," said ATF spokeswoman Marti McKee.

This is the second high-profile theft of weapons in San Mateo County this summer, following the theft of 200 pounds of explosives from a law enforcement storage facility last month. McKee said there does not appear to be any evidence linking the Millbrae crime with the stolen explosives, which were later recovered, nor any sign of a terrorist activity.

McKee would not say how the guns were taken from the storage facility. Employees at Annie's Attic declined to comment.

It's not rare or illegal for a licensed gun dealer such as Monterey Bay Investments to store weapons away from its main business location, McKee said. Federal law requires that firearms dealers secure their weapons but doesn't require specific safeguards against theft, she said.

However, Millbrae Police spokeswoman Chris Co said investigators were looking at why Monterey Bay Investments chose to store weapons so far from its Aptos office.

"We don't have any reason why they were here," she said.

McKee said the company might face criminal charges or a possible license revocation for failing to tell the ATF of the theft within 48 hours, as required by law.

Doolittle was on a camping vacation and unavailable for comment Thursday, according to a company employee who answered the phone. No one else was authorized to talk about the case, the employee said.

According to the company's gun transfer Web site, Doolittle is a former Air Force security police officer and member of the Presidential Honor Guard who went into gun trading because of a lifelong affection for the weapons. He wanted to help other firearms owners sell and transfer guns easily and cheaply, the Web site said.

Under federal law, gun owners wishing to sell their weapons must work through a licensed dealer, who conducts background checks and maintains the necessary record keeping.

"I do not attempt to make a living at the firearms game, but I like to make a few bucks while I help other people," Doolittle wrote on the Web site. "I really enjoy making new friends, and being a firearms dealer is a great way to do that."

McKee said investigators welcomed help from the public and were considering every scenario, from an outside break-in to an inside job.

Large-scale gun thefts are a recurring problem, McKee said. In 2001, 257 guns were stolen in Modesto, and 86 weapons were stolen in San Rafael. Earlier this year, 25 guns were taken in San Leandro.

"Sorry to say, but it's not uncommon," McKee said.

E-mail Ryan Kim at rkim@sfchronicle.com.

Link Posted: 8/28/2004 3:18:34 AM EDT
Dupe, Wee first one.
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