Dented safe

A burglar pried open the door on the safe with the combination lock.

Billings Police on Wednesday were still trying to track down 28 guns stolen from a Heights home over the weekend.

The thieves may have entered the home through a dog door and used tools from the garage to peel open two locked gun safes.

Wesley Dunn, who owns about half the stolen guns, fears the weapons may fall into the hands of criminals.

The guns "were safe in our hands," Dunn said Wednesday. "Now, there’s (about) 30 guns out there in the city of Billings that could be used for anything.”

The stolen guns include pistols, shotguns and collector guns. None were automatic rifles. They belonged to Dunn and Brent Looper, a family friend, who lives in his mother's home where the guns were kept. The men estimate the guns and other items taken in the burglary were worth about $12,600.

Looper and Dunn have serial numbers for all the guns.

Looper thinks the burglar broke in through a dog door. He and his mother were out of town camping at the time. When they returned Sunday, Looper saw the gun safe on the main floor was open and empty. He went downstairs and the other safe, with a combination lock, was on its back, empty, with the door dented from being pried at.

“They used all kinds of tools to get in,” Looper said, including tools from the family’s garage.

The thieves left behind several computers and a television, all in the same rooms as the guns.

Dunn said he lost more than just a gun collection, since nine of them had belonged to his late grandfather.

“Eighty-six hundred dollars, that’s nothing to me," he said of value of his share of the guns. "That’s not what I lost. If I could just get one back it would give me some type of hope.”

Looper’s mother, Judy Thompson, felt the same. The burglar took her mother’s gold bracelet, more than 100 years old, which contained a photo of Thompson and her sister as babies. A new watch still in the box was also apparently taken.

“You know you just feel, I mean after it set in, you’re angry,” Looper said. “You get mad. Because it’s like, someone came into my house and was in my stuff and they took things that are important to us. It just upset me.”

Billings Police officials say they have a suspect, but declined to comment further about the theft. 

Billings saw another major gun theft in 2010 when two men broke into a trucking and storage facility, stole 136 guns and drove them to California where they swapped them for money and drugs, according to court documents. It is believed to be the biggest gun heist in state history.

Both men were sentenced to 10 years in prison.

A gun is stolen in the United States about every two minutes, according to analysis of FBI and ATF data by Chelsea Parsons, vice president of Guns and Crime Policy at the Center for American Progress. Data she gathered showed thefts of $164 million worth of guns from homes in 2015 alone, and those are just the ones that were reported.

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Public safety reporter for the Billings Gazette.