Three Teens Suspected in Indianapolis Gun Store Burglary

AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File

Those of us of a certain age will remember a public service announcement that used to pop up on our TV screens in the evening. 


It might be time to reboot this reminder to parents, at least in the Indianapolis area. For the second time in four months, police have made arrests in a burglary of a gun store, and many of the suspects are too young to drive, much less possess a firearm. 

The most recent incident took place early Monday morning, when Indianapolis police report a 13, 14, and 15-year-old were taken into custody after trying to break in to Indy Arms Co. 

Reports show it's the second time in two days thieves have tried to enter the store near East 56th Street and North Keystone Avenue in the early morning hours. 

"They damaged the first layer, and the second layer held up," said Richard Cass, owner of Indy Arms Co., as he pointed to his partially-damaged front door. He said it was kicked and hit Saturday morning and Monday morning.

"13-, 14- and 15-year-old kids out there at 3:30 and 4:30 in the morning. I blame the parents. The parents should know where their kids are," Cass said. "These are kids, but I hope they're charged as adults because they did an adult crime."

Cass said the number of arrests doesn't add up to the number of people his cameras caught trying to break into his business.

"There was definitely four individuals, including the driver of the car," Cass said.

Another nearby gun store was burgled two days earlier, and the thieves managed to get away with nine AR-style rifles. Cass says he believes the teens who targeted his business were the same ones who successfully absconded with rifles from 500 Guns over the weekend, but so far police haven't said if the juveniles now in custody are suspects in the earlier burglary as well. 


Back in early January, the Johnson County Sheriff's Office arrested three teens who they believe are responsible for a break-in at a gun shop in Greenwood, just south of Indianapolis. 

Surveillance video showed three people in the store stealing guns and talking on a cellphone to a suspected lookout. Investigators said the thieves stole pistols, rifles, ammunition and other items, with a total value of around $81,000. 

Police were able to collect DNA evidence, shoeprints and discarded paper towels as evidence.

Investigators were also able to locate a stolen vehicle in a neighborhood east of the business. They were then able to track that vehicle back to one of the suspects. It turns out the vehicle was tracked to a Subway restaurant, and surveillance video there showed an employee using the car.

In that case, police arrested 18-year-old Ivan J. Bautista, along with a 15-year-old and 16-year-old, who they say backed a stolen car into the front doors of the gun shop before scooping up dozens of firearms and fleeing into the night. 

While Cass hopes that the teen suspects who've been charged with breaking into his store will be tried as adults, that probably won't happen. Since the suspects are younger than 16, their cases will be filed in juvenile court, and it would be up to prosecutors to argue that they should be treated as adults. 

That rarely happens in Indiana, at least successfully. In 2021 there were just 76 juvenile defendants under the jurisdiction of adult courts, and 84 percent of those cases involved teens who were old enough to be charged as adults from the get-go.  The odds of these teen suspects having their cases moved to adult court are pretty long, which means they're not likely to face much punishment at all, even if they're convicted on all charges.  


Indiana lawmakers have already wrapped up their 2024 session, but this seems like an issue that legislators need to tackle as soon as possible. There were more than 400 juveniles charged with weapons offenses in Indianapolis last year, and some of them were likely armed as a result of teens breaking into local gun shops. Making it easier to move these cases to adult court is one option, but lawmakers could also impose more consequences on juvenile offenders who are charged with theft of a firearm. That's already a felony offense under Indiana law, but if juveniles are getting slaps on the wrist for stealing guns from FFLs, then it's up to legislators to ensure that the law isn't toothless when it comes to teens committing these crimes. 

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