SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — An October investigation into a pair of stolen Apple AirPods resulted in the recovery of 17 stolen guns.
Sioux Falls police say that 12 of the 17 guns were taken from unlocked cars and the guns were taken from 4 different counties in South Dakota and Iowa. Following the recovery of the weapons, police have issued a reminder to the public to lock their cars.
KELOLAND News tracked down the owners of three of the recovered firearms who agreed to discuss the thefts.
The first of these three is a 40-year-old woman who asked to remain anonymous. She says that her gun, a pistol, was stolen in August. The woman said she and her husband discovered the theft after a friend of theirs had mentioned that her daughter’s car had been broken into.
“I was like, oh my gosh,” she said. “I looked at my husband and was like, go check our cars.”
Upon checking the car, the woman says her husband found it unlocked with the gun gone. She says she usually locks the car, and is unsure if the thief shimmed the lock, or if she accidentally left it unlocked. After realizing it had been stolen, she says she and her husband called the police.
The woman says she had just gotten the gun the previous weekend at a gun show, and that her husband had taken it to his dad’s house to try it out. She says she hadn’t really been aware that the gun was in the car until it was stolen.
“I was very upset,” the woman said, describing the moment she realized the gun was missing. “Not upset at the fact that somebody stole it but upset at the fact that anybody could have it in their hands — it was very frightening.”
The woman says she learned that her gun had been recovered when she saw the story Wednesday on KELOLAND. She says she doesn’t know when her gun will be returned, as it will be held throughout the investigation.
This doesn’t bother her. “I’m fine with it as long as it isn’t in somebody’s hands that can use it to harm.”
The woman tells us that the break-ins in the community have been a bit of a shock. “We’re in a small town where a lot of people don’t lock their cars or their homes.”
The woman says that when she gets the gun back, she will carry it on her person at all times, not leaving it in the car. “It will never be not carried on my person,” she said.
When it’s not with her, she says she has a gun safe for storage.
“This doesn’t ever happen,” she said of the gun being left in the car. “This was a once in a lifetime kind of thing.”
Many of the above woman’s sentiments were echoed by Jeff Knopf, a 51-year-old resident of Baltic. He had a Kimber Micro 9 stolen from his vehicle.
“I actually woke up about two in the morning and was out in my garage when this all happened,” he said, recounting the night of the theft. Knopf says he has a bit of a man-cave set up in the garage, so it was not unusual for him to be out there.
“They were literally 25-feet away from me probably,” he said. “They got into my daughter’s car — took her keys for whatever reason — [then they] got into my truck.”
One thing Knopf remembers clearly about the discovery of the break-in is that the thief took his key out of the ignition and placed it on the driver’s seat.
When describing the event as a whole, Knopf is grateful.
“I actually feel very blessed by Jesus that I hadn’t heard it. I was 20-feet away. I would’ve come out with my other gun, and this person would’ve been a young person, and god forbid something would’ve happened to them or would’ve happened to me.”
Knopf laments the fact that the thief put themselves in such a dangerous situation, both for him and for themselves. He was sure to stress that he doesn’t seek confrontation.
“I left my gun — it was fully loaded,” he said, playing out the scenario in his head. “They would’ve had an active gun, and they would’ve had an active gun — so I feel fortunate. I was willing to give up my gun [so as] not to actually hurt somebody with another gun.”
Being from a small town, Knopf says he never felt the need to lock his car. That has now changed. He says he reported the theft immediately, calling the sheriff at 5 a.m.
Knopf estimates that about six weeks went by between the theft and recovery of his gun. The whole time, the thought of what could happen weighed on him. “God forbid — my biggest thing is I don’t want my gun in a criminal’s hand to do damage toward anybody else.”
When he was contacted and told his gun was found, a weight was lifted form his shoulders. “Relieved,” he said, describing the feeling. “Not because I was getting the gun back, but that nobody could do damage to another individual with my gun.”
While he considers himself a responsible gun owner, Knopf wants to caution others. “It happened to me; it can happen to anybody.”
Knopf points out that he doesn’t typically keep his gun in his vehicle. “I thought I had that in my safe in the house,” he said.
“I work out of town a lot,” Knopf explained, “so I had it in my car — I live in an RV a lot when I’m on the road, but I came home and forgot that I had that in my truck instead — I just made a terrible mistake having it in my car to be honest with you.”
Like the woman above, Knopf doesn’t know when he’ll get his gun back.
“But I’m relieved,” he said, “just taking it out of the population. I don’t care exactly how long it takes, I’m glad it’s found.”
Luke Jamison was another victim of theft, having an AR15 stolen out of his pickup. “I had the gun in my pickup in its case under the backseat,” he told KELOLAND News via Facebook Messenger.
Jamison said he had taken the gun out shooting one weekend and didn’t realize it was missing until he went to retrieve it the next weekend.
“[I’m] fairly certain it was stolen from the Hy-Vee on 49th and Louise,” said Jamison. “I must have accidentally left my truck unlocked.”
Jamison says he is usually really good about locking his vehicle, as he almost always has guns in it. He says the main reason the AR15 was in the pickup was out of convenience.
“We were scouting for geese that time of year, so we spend a good amount of time out of town in rural areas — going to shooting ranges and stuff like that is a hobby of mine and it’s nice to always have it accessible.”
Asked how he felt when he realized the gun was missing, Jamison says he wasn’t immediately too concerned. “Well at first I wondered if I had brought it in my house and just forgot, then was sort of ‘oh crap I wonder if it got stolen’,” he said.
He found out the rifle had been recovered when a detective contacted him, asking if he’d had an AR stolen. He says he was frustrated when it was stolen, but that he didn’t think he would ever see it again.
Jamison didn’t report the gun stolen. “I should have, but I didn’t have serial number [written] down anywhere and I’d need to contact Cabela’s to get it from them, and like I said, I just figured it was gone.”
Asked if he planned to change the way he stores his guns going forward, Jamison was honest.
“No, not really,” he wrote. “I do have all the serial numbers of all my other guns [written] down — but I liked having the gun in my pickup and as bad as it sounds, I probably won’t do anything different other than be damn sure I’m locking my pickup.”