Over 600 Firearms Looted
Though the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office, the Gretna Police Department and a handful of agencies took steps to remove and secure some firearms from businesses before and after the storm, looters still managed to find weapons to steal. Of the 20 stores burglarized in Louisiana, seven were in Orleans Parish, eight in Jefferson, four in St. Bernard and one in St. John, according to ATF Special Agent Austin Banks.
Looters made off with 75 to 100 firearms from BJ's Pawn Shop on Jefferson Highway in Jefferson before burning the store to the ground in the first few days after Katrina made landfall Aug. 29, owner Bill Jefferson said. Although he put all the handguns away in a safe, the thieves broke a cable lock and stole all the rifles and shotguns there, he said. Thieves also got past a steel door at his Gretna location, stealing 50 firearms, including some AK-47 assault rifles and pistols, Johnson said.
Hurricane-related gun looting wasn't just a local problem. Another 400 firearms were stolen from businesses in Mississippi and Alabama, according to Robert Browning, the ATF's assistant special agent in charge. Of the 1,000 guns looted from all three states, only 137 have been recovered. The guns have been found in Georgia, Arizona, Texas and Mississippi, but the vast majority have turned up in Louisiana, Browning said.
An unidentified New Orleans man recently was pulled over by police in Decatur, Ga., and found with one of the looted guns, Browning said. A search of a New Orleans home connected to the man turned up three more stolen guns. That case is still under investigation, he said.