Monday, September 26, 2022

‘Amateurish’: Sheriff’s office has leads in stolen ammo case that got ATF attention

Old Dominion Freight Line’s Wilmington location on Fredrickson Road (Carl Blankenship/Port City Daily).

WILMINGTON — New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office said it is eyeing two people in an unusual larceny case involving ammunition, shipping containers in three North Carolina cities, and an SUV-sized hole in a fence.

On Sept. 6 around 3 a.m., thieves cut through a wire barrier at Old Dominion Freight Line’s 3327 Fredrickson Rd. location in Wilmington. Two suspects broke into several shipping containers, but a spokesperson from the sheriff’s office said they only stole seven cases of 9mm Winchester ammunition, totaling 4,000 rounds, off a full shipping pallet.

“I suspect there are at least 50 on a pallet,” NHCSO Public Information Officer Jerry Brewer estimated. 

Yet, the remainder was left in the freight yard along with the contents of all the other containers.

“I think they’re thieves,” Brewer said. “I just don’t think they’re good ones.”

The Wilmington break-in has been connected to two similar incidents that happened in Morrisville and Kernersville between Sept. 5 and 6. A report from Morrisville Police Department indicates a heist took place also at an Old Dominion yard. The national truck shipping company is listed on NASDAQ 100 and S&P 500, and is headquartered in Thomasville with freight locations across the state.

Brewer said the suspects didn’t make it past the electric fence in the Kernersville freight yard.

Corey Ray, a spokesperson for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, told PCD the breaking-and-enterings were “very likely” carried out by the same people. Ray said no ammunition was stolen in either of the other incidents. 

In Morrisville the thieves took audio equipment, according to Brewer. 

When he first heard about the incident, the New Hanover County lieutenant said he suspected it to be an “inside job, all day, twice on Sunday.” As details in the cases became available, Brewer said the long-distance crimes sounded “amateurish.”

The thieves were driving a Honda CR-V, a compact SUV not capable of carrying much from a shipping container. 

“They actually cut the fence and fit the whole CR-V in there,” Brewer said in reference to the Morrisville crime. 

The suspects also cut a less sizable whole in the fence in New Hanover County.

In essence, with a better plan, the burglars could have made off with much more, Brewer said.

The feds confirmed a pair of vehicles — the silver SUV and a gray four-door sedan — deemed suspicious was caught on a surveillance camera at the Kernersville site.

A surveillance image of two suspicious vehicles at the Kernersville site.

Brewer said this kind of break-in is unusual and the first of its kind, at least to his knowledge, in the greater Wilmington area. He also is confident that the sheriff’s office “has a pretty good chance” of tracking down the subjects identified in the case.

Ray said the ATF typically does not get involved in theft cases unless a firearm is involved, but it takes public safety into account. The bureau sent out an alert for firearms dealers to be aware that the stolen ammo could show up in their stores; many licensed dealers are pawn shops that buy and sell.

“We wanted to be proactive and make sure they were aware of anything suspicious and possibly related to the thefts,” Ray wrote in an email to PCD.

Last week, news outlets first reported “large quantities” of stolen ammo from Wilmington, Raleigh and Durham, citing the initial notice from the ATF. 

Ray wrote to PCD the ATF later revised the notice when it learned the containers were located in different cities. Kernersville is in the Triad area and Morrisville is outside of Raleigh.


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