San Francisco

Stolen FBI Assault Rifle Was Sold to 20-Year-Old Buyer in Santa Cruz Before Recovered by Police

An assault rifle stolen from the parked vehicle of an FBI agent in Oakland was sold to a 20-year-old buyer in Santa Cruz for $1,600, according to an Oakland Police Department search warrant obtained by NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit. Law enforcement officers ultimately recovered the gun in late July, several weeks after it was stolen during a smash and grab auto burglary.

According to the warrant, police believe at least two members of a San Francisco burglary crew, Deon Norton - 20 and Malik Jones - 24, were responsible for the original theft. That burglary happened just after 8:30 pm in the Starbucks parking lot at 8459 Edgewater Drive. Among the items stolen were a Colt M4 rifle, classified as an assault rifle in California, along with a .45 caliber Glock magazine, a combat medic kit, a set of handcuffs, and an FBI raid jacket.

The warrant goes on to say just four days after the theft, FBI agents managed to track Norton, Jones, and a third man from San Francisco to Santa Cruz. Police later identified that third man as 21-year-old Jake Burns - who told police he was paid $100 to broker the sale of the assault rifle.

A San Francisco police officer who spotted one of the suspect’s vehicles provided the break in the case.

A witness at the Starbucks where the original theft occurred described the suspect vehicle as a white Mitsubishi Galant. A day after the theft, someone reported finding a wallet belonging to the FBI agent on the ground, along with several other pieces of FBI-issued equipment, at San Francisco’s Lakeview and Ashton Mini Park.

An Oakland police sergeant contacted San Francisco police to ask if there were any known burglary crews in the area connected to a Mitsubishi Galant. A San Francisco police officer then spotted the suspect vehicle parked in front of a residence on Arch Street. A DMV check revealed the car was registered to Norton, whose criminal record includes arrests for burglary and possession of stolen property.

On July 24, police served a search warrant at Norton’s address, where they recovered a sling related to the stolen rifle, as well as the FBI agent’s loaded Glock magazine. During questioning Norton told investigators the rifle had been sold to Santa Cruz resident Parker Prowell, 20, who Norton described as a “friend of a friend.”

The following day, police served a warrant at a home in Santa Cruz, where they detained Prowell - but were unable to locate the stolen rifle.

The day after that, Burns, the alleged broker, was arrested in Maui. According to the warrant, Burns told investigators he was responsible for connecting Norton and Jones with Prowell, the gun’s buyer. Burns said Prowell paid $1,600 for the firearm, which is illegal to possess in California. Burns also allegedly told police that Prowell then “transferred” the rifle to another Santa Cruz resident. Police say that man was later identified as Clarence Klace, 34.

The FBI said agents recovered the stolen rifle three days later, on July 29, but provided no additional details about where it was found or who had it.

Burns, Norton, and Jones now face charges in Alameda County for possession of an assault weapon and furnishing an assault weapon. Prowell faces charges of possession of an assault weapon and receiving stolen property. All three have pleaded not guilty.

It’s currently unclear if Klase faces any charges in connection to the stolen rifle.

As NBC Bay Area was first to report - the FBI agent was cited for violating Oakland’s safe storage gun law, which requires firearms, in unattended vehicles, to be secured in a lock box. A spokesperson for the FBI said the agency is investigating the conduct of the agent, but declined to provide additional details.

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