LAKELAND (FOX 13) - Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd says 36 stolen firearms will soon be on the streets, and a local gun shop owner is largely to blame.
"It was low-hanging fruit for professional burglars," Judd fired off during a news conference Tuesday.
Early Sunday morning, Polk deputies say three masked men broke into Titan Arms, a gun store in Lakeland, and took off with dozens of firearms before deputies could got there.
"There's no way they should have been able to arrive, break into that store, and make off with 36 guns in two minutes. But they did," Judd said.
Judd says the burglars didn't have to do much to get in. They smashed in the windows with sledge hammers and easily broke off old burglar bars. Once they were inside, the guns were out in the open, hanging from displays on pegs, Judd said.
When it was time to take off, they were spotted on surveillance video leaving the scene in a brown, 2009-2014 extended cab pickup truck.
Meanwhile, other gun stores in Polk County say they don't take those kinds of chances. Michael Dunn of Vet's Surplus says their gun shop spends thousands of dollars on layers of security to keep the bad guys at bay.
"We try to make it as difficult for them as we can," Dunn said.
Sheriff Judd says Titan Arms didn't do their part to keep their inventory safely stashed. Now, he fears 36 firearms will wind up in the wrong hands.
"It was a grand slam burglary waiting to happen," Judd said.
ATF is now getting involved in the case. They're offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.