WALNUT CREEK, Calif.– Burglars who forced their way into a secured Contra Costa County sheriff’s lot ransacked several patrol cars and stole weapons inside, the Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday.

Three Colt semi-automatic assault rifles and a Remington shotgun were taken from cars parked in the lot at 1900 Muir Road between Monday night and Tuesday morning, said sheriff’s Capt. Daniel Terry.

The break-in is similar to one in mid-December at a California Highway Patrol field office lot a little more than a mile away, at 5001 Blum Road, during which CHP cruisers were broken into and rifles and ammunition were stolen.

Terry said investigators could not say if the two burglaries were connected.

In the most recent incident, the burglars cut through a fence and used “heavy-duty equipment” to pry open the patrol car doors. In one instance, a softball-size hole had been bored into a car’s door panel, Terry said. In freeing the weapons that were secured by harnesses and electric locks, the burglars severely damaged the cars.

“They came prepared,” Terry said.

The lot has no video surveillance. Investigators believe that multiple burglars were involved, and that they are locally based.

The lot was processed for evidence Tuesday. The FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center are assisting with the investigation.

“We’re doing everything we can from a resource standpoint,”

Terry said. “Public safety remains our No. 1 issue in identifying the weapons and (suspects).”

Terry said the stolen firearms had been modified to law enforcement standards, and would look distinctive to anyone familiar with those types of weapons.

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