Two months after an unsecured assault rifle was stolen from an unmarked sheriff’s deputy vehicle, officials are enlisting the help of the public in locating the missing weapon.
According to a statement from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, a $2,500 reward has been authorized for the first person to provide information that leads to the return of the Colt AR-15 rifle (serial number A0186353), as well as body armor that was also stolen from the vehicle.
Informants will also be granted immunity from prosecution for illegally obtaining or possessing the rifle.
Anyone with information is asked to call Detective J. Callaway at 435-627-4411 and reference incident 19P030882.
The St. George Police Department is “actively pursuing” leads in this case, according to the statement. While other items also stolen out of the vehicle have been recovered, the rifle and body armor have yet to be found.
“While Washington County officials are confident in the investigation process, our primary focus continues to be the recovery of the rifle,” the statement reads.
How the gun, body armor were stolen
Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Lt. David Crouse couldn’t give an exact estimate of what all the stolen items were worth, but said the rifle could be worth anywhere from under $1,000 to a “couple thousand dollars.”
When asked if the involved deputy has faced any disciplinary actions, he stated that the issue “was addressed internally.”
The case dates back to Thanksgiving day of 2019, when Preston Clifford Farnsworth, 19, stole the rifle, ammunition, body armor and other police-related items from an unlocked car, according to court documents and the Sheriff’s Office statement.
Crouse said that from what he knows, the suspect was committing a series of car burglaries and was checking various vehicles when he came across the unidentified sheriff’s deputy vehicle.
The victim, an off-duty sheriff’s deputy, had home surveillance cameras which showed that at about 4:30 a.m. on Nov. 20, 2019, a male suspect walked onto his driveway and was able to open the doors of his work truck.
The video surveillance shows the suspect rummaging inside the truck and stealing the rifle, body armor and other items.
It also shows the suspect’s face and clothing, which is how St. George Police identified him as Farnsworth.
Suspect arrested at St. George home
On Dec. 2, 2019, police obtained information that Farnsworth was possibly staying at a juvenile friend’s home in St. George, according to a report filed in 5th District Court. The friend’s mother agreed to meet police at the home and indicated that Farnsworth had been with her son three days earlier. She also told police that Farnsworth wasn’t allowed to be in her home, and she believed he was not in her residence. However, she allowed police to search the home.
In an unlocked shed behind the house, police observed glass smoking pipes with burning residue and noted the strong smell of recently smoked marijuana, according to the report. In a trash bag in the shed, they also found three plastic baggies that appeared to contain marijuana residue.
They then found Farnsworth hiding in a corner of the woman’s garage, according to the report. He appeared to be wearing the same or similar clothes to those worn during the burglary and during another recent retail theft.
Suspect facing multiple felonies
During an interview with police, Farnsworth confessed to stealing the rifle, ammunition and other property. He had brought the items to the juvenile friend’s home, where they put the items in bags and buried them near a water tower close to the home. Farnsworth said that was the last he’d seen of the rifle.
He also confessed to stealing an ATV 4-wheeler which was parked at a neighbor’s house next to the juvenile friend’s home. Farnsworth said the key was in the ignition and he had driven it around the area before parking it a short distance from where he stole it. The key was later recovered from Farnsworth’s backpack.
He is charged with two second-degree felony counts of theft; a third-degree felony count of theft; and a third-degree felony count of unlawful possession of a firearm.
He is also charged with burglary of a vehicle, a class A misdemeanor; possession of a controlled substance and use or possession of drug paraphernalia, both class B misdemeanors; and criminal trespass, a class B misdemeanor.
The juvenile friend was also interviewed. Though he initially denied knowing anything about the stolen property, both he and Farnsworth later provided possible information about the whereabouts of the rifle.
“We are continuing to investigate this incident,” the probable cause statement reads.
Kaitlyn Bancroft reports on faith, health, education and under-served communities for The Spectrum & Daily News, a USA TODAY Network newsroom in St. George, Utah. She’s a graduate of Brigham Young University’s journalism program, and has previously written for The Denver Post, The Daily Universe, Deseret News and the Davis Clipper. You can reach her at KBancroft@thespectrum.com, or follow her on Twitter @katbancroft.
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