Ohio police arsenal of M16's (courtesy daytondailynews.com)

So a cop pulls into a cop shop in Akron, Ohio. As Officer Distracted leaves the cruiser, he mistakenly hits the remote trunk release on his key fob. (ohio.com: “it appears a defective latch allowed the cruiser trunk to pop open after an officer parked near the department.”) A homeless man (and thief) named James Couto Jr. wanders by. He sees an unsecured “high-powered and loaded” M16 – one of 5000 loaned to OH cops by the DOD – in the trunk. Mr. Couto plays finders keepers.  The cops freak. The cops catch him dead-to-rights. A judge sentences Mr. Couto to two years in the hoosegow. No word on administrative action against the policeman or woman from whom the M16 was stolen. Fair enough? [Note: this is not the first time this has happened.]

41 Responses to Akron Homeless Man Gets 2 Yrs. in Prison for Stealing Police M16

    • Fair enough. But if your gun was stolen under the same circumstances, would you not be blamed by the cops? I can tell you than if mine was stolen under the same circumstances, there would be hell to pay, and I’d be paying it.

      • Right off the top of my head I can’t think of a single person that has gone to jail or otherwise been punished for having a gun stolen. In WV my brother’s FIL had a whole safe full of guns stolen. All the hassle he got was a police report and an insurance claim.

        I’ve also been involved in job related incidents, never a stolen gun, where I was at fault. I was never fired or punished beyond paper work and a talking too.

        As for the same circumstances, being careless with my guns going to or from the range or hunting and having one stolen is still not, to my knowledge, a criminal offense.

        • Ralph, for having a gun stolen? How about in an armed robbery, same-same? What if the thief SHOOTS you to steal your gun? What exactly causes this disbarment?

    • The thief is to blame for the theft.

      But the officer is to blame for leaving a weapon unsecured, if he did. I don’t know if that is the case here.

  1. “As Officer Distracted leaves the cruiser, he mistakenly hits the remote trunk release on his key fob. (ohio.com: “it appears a defective latch allowed the cruiser trunk to pop open after an officer parked near the department.”) ”

    Those two sentences are not the same. Which is it?

    • I read that as the “official” story is defective latch;
      Unofficially the official story stinks a little, and just as “the gun spontaneously went off” it’s usually cause somebody pulls the damned trigger.

      • I see one as quite a bit more serious than the other so I’m not a big fan of implying without any evidence whatsoever… was hoping a link was just left out.

        • I read (with no evidence) “it appears” to mean “we haven’t checked at all, or made any repairs, but the trunk now functions fine. No further action required, just a temporary malfunction, no harm done!”

          BTW, if this is a DOD weapon, is it not select fire? If so, where are the prosecutions for care, handling and stealing of an NFA weapon without a Form 4? I’m pretty sure that’s closer to 20 years than 2.

    • If you leave your garage door open and someone steals a bike… there’s nothing on you for that except some self-dealt shame. An officer of the law not properly securing and ensuring control over a DOD loaned select fire assault rifle on the other hand is something of a much higher caliber (pun intended). Like a parent is responsible for securing their firearms from their children, an officer is responsible for securing theirs from the public.

  2. It’s wrong to steal, no matter how easy some other party may make it. This scumbag took what WAS NOT HIS TO TAKE. I have very little sympathy for people like that.

    Now should Officer Distracted get some punishment? I dunno. If something like that happened at my work, not gonna lie, I’d probably be given the benefit of the doubt.

  3. Good to know that this site blames criminals, not their victims. Unless that victim is a cop, of course. Because it’s always the cop’s fault.

    I remember when TTAG used to be about giving us high-quality information on guns. It’s a good thing that the gun-blog-o-sphere has exploded, giving me lots of other options. Of course, I am saddened to see a good one fall apart.

    • Exactly where did the post blame the cop?

      Sorry that you’ve disappointed with this site asking a meaningful question. Sorry that you will never come back here again.

      Okay, that last sentence was a lie. Buh-bye.

    • See Hannibal’s reply above. Seems the police are either very confused about what really happened or are doing some very purposeful obfuscation, and this matters greatly-it is indicative of poor leadership and failure to take responsibility.

      Police, as public servants, are responsible for community owned property and have a much greater duty to maintain accountability of said property-especially their firearms. When I was on the military losing my assigned weapon, or any other government issued gear, was potentially a punishable offense under the UCMJ, but if I lost my personally owned crap, well that was on me-same should apply here. While the criminal has no excuse, the officer has failed in a basic task, and should face repercussions for his negligence.

      • I feel the need to point out the “potentially” that you yourself included…

        Yes, the officer in question was “Potentially” at fault, as you yourself, or Me also under the UCMJ MAY have been under certain circumstances… and to be perfectly honest I did lose some Military owned equipment.(not weaponry – no classified, no protected information systems with no storage)…

        a report was filed, the equipment was declared a monetary loss to our unit – etc. etc etc.

        Here, a rifle was stolen – a rifle was recovered…. what’s the problem?

        • Yes, I included “potentially” because as you correctly point out circumstances sometimes mitigate responsibility, BUT they just as easily sometimes increase culpability.

          In this case the problem, as I see it, is twofold. One, that there are conflicting versions of the events surrounding the loss, and credibility of the account is therefore questionable. This may just be due to lack of accurate information being available to us (the public) and to speculate is not helpful, so I won’t address it further.

          More troubling though is that both proffered explanations indicate a degree of negligence on the officer’s part. Sensitive items-weapons, classified data, high value, etc- as you are aware require extra diligence in security. Having a loaded weapon left unsecured for any reason is simply not acceptable. This weapon was out of police control and required an extensive manhunt to recover it. That it was eventually found, apparently in short order, is very fortunate, but it never should have been lost at all. No excuse is acceptable. We can’t depend on luck, or calling out all the troops to fix something that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

          There’s most likely systemic issues that also need to be addressed. Nevertheless, I still stand by my assertion that the officer involved should face repercussions. As to what those are will depend on determining the exact facts.

  4. I think the party line is that those DOD M16s are all supposed to be reworked to remove the selector and make them only semi-auto, anybody? Truth is I seriously doubt the many police departments and their loyal LEOs will bother, after all it would cost money and take all the fun out of those “no nock” home invasions to collect unpaid parking tickets or seize a shotgun from some guy whose soon to be ex-wife turns him in as a “danger” to her and her kids.

  5. Cop is an idiot. Homeless guy is a thief. I love it when the trolls who have never posted once tell us they’re leaving TTAG. +1 Ralph…

  6. Only two years? Seems kinda low when a convicted felon who has a rusty hi-point can get five for just having it.

  7. Well, on the bright side, at least a homeless man now has a place to live with 3 hot meals every day.

    • And amazingly shit keeps happening if no one addresses it.

      Making it easy for some random dude of indeterminate sanity walking by to pick up what may legitimately be an assault rifle is some shit I think we’d like to avoid having happen.

      • You’re right, it does, and will keep happening. It has been addressed many times, to no avail. How many weapons have been lost, or stolen from LE (city, county, state, and federal) vehicles? I’m sure over the years, it’s been a shitload of them. Face it, LEOs are going to keep getting free passes on this kind of thing, but feel free to keep pissing in the wind.

  8. When I was in them military, I knew a guy whose car got broken into and his bag with his flight equipment got stolen, including a $900 headset. He had to pay that money back himself.

  9. I don’t know how the other services or LEOs run things, but if someone made off with my M4 because I’d left it unattended and unsecured, I’d get ninjapunched, at least.

    Even some homeless guy walked off with my weapon, it’s still my fault for failing to ensure that it was properly secured.

  10. I didn’t know a “high-powered ” M16 existed. Is this a 5.56 magnum? Gee, now we get to house this miscreant for the next two years for an impulse crime with no injury. What does it cost now, some 40K a year. Could buy a lot of 5.56 mags with that kind of money.
    The officer should have to foot some of this himself. Not go to jail but perhaps some sort of monetary punishment.

  11. How is it cops get all the defective guns with defective triggers and defective cars with defective trunk latches?

  12. Question: If you’re a a homeless person without a job, it being in jail really that bad?
    You’re guaranteed meals, showers, clothing, exercise time. If you don’t have a home, you’d likely rather be dead anyway. The downside to prison is you can’t go anywhere and there may be someone who’s trying to kill you. If you’re homeless you probably don’t have anywhere to go anyway, but are you safer?

    • I wanted to add:

      I think the solution to decreasing homelessness is providing the homeless with jobs and job rehabilitation, not just giving them a place to stay and a meal. Homeless people have trouble getting jobs because they can’t dress well with neatly ironed clothes, don’t have dedicated phones, and don’t have addresses they can put on their resumes. If there were a service dedicated to providing them with work regardless of those problems, a service that would overlook small problems that would under normal circumstances cause most employers to instantly deny employment in an interview, then I think it could decrease homelessness in our nation.

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