The Santa Clara County Sheriff s Department confirms deputies arrested Technical Sergeant Walter Engle last week on two felony counts and one misdemeanor count of possessing illegal firearms. This story aired on March 4, 2013 at 11 p.m. Tony Kovaleski reports.
A veteran member of the California Air National Guard now faces three serious criminal charges and the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department says he has admitted to stealing hundreds of rounds of military grade ammunition.
The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit broke this story late on Monday after sources confirmed the theft took place at the 129th Rescue Wing of the California Air National Guard at Moffett Field.
Late last week, Santa Clara County sheriff’s deputies arrested Technical Sergeant Walter Engle. The veteran member of the California Guard faces felony charges of grand theft and possession of stolen property and a misdemeanor charge of possessing illegal tracer rounds.
According to sources and the Sheriff’s Office, Engle stole more than 900 rounds of 7.62mm machine gun ammunition and more than 20 rounds of .50 caliber machine gun ammo.
“These are a lot of rounds for somebody to take,” Sheriff's Sgt. Jose Cardoza said. He added the military grade ammo is “not for personal use. Who knows what he was going to use these rounds for, but it is a lot of rounds to take.”
The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office says Engle acknowledged his role in the crimes.
“We were able to confirm by the fact of him admitting to us that he was in fact responsible,” Cardoza said. “He did take these from the Moffett Air Base without permission. So he was arrested and booked in the jail.”
When questioned about Engle’s motive Cardoza said, “He didn't readily say that or provide that information. Other than admitting who took them without permission, he didn't really explain the motive. He worked there so he did have permission to be on the grounds as a military employee.”
The Investigative Unit also confirmed Engle learned he was under investigation before he was arrested.
"He was already en route to take these rounds back to Moffett Field,” said Cardoza. “It doesn't make matters any better. Because the bottom line, he did take them he did take these rounds without permission so he was still arrested.”
The California National Guard responded to news of the arrest by releasing the following statement:
"When the unit discovered the missing ammunition, they immediately conducted a causative search and concurrent investigation with civilian authorities. All the missing ammunition has since been recovered and a suspect was arrested. No weapons were ever missing. The matter remains under investigation by both military and civilian authorities, so it would be inappropriate to comment further.”
Engle will face charges during an upcoming court hearing in Santa Clara County. Investigations by the military and the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office are ongoing. The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit contacted the National Guard in Sacramento requesting comment from TS Engle. As of this writing there has been no response to the request.
If you have a tip for the Investigative Unit email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 888-996-TIPS.