A Monroe County Sheriff's Office sergeant whose cruiser was burglarized of guns and other equipment last month is familiar with the scenario — the same thing happened to him three years ago.
In August 2009, Sgt. Ken Fricke's department-issued 12-gauge Remington shotgun and .45-caliber Glock handgun, and his personal .40-caliber Glock, were stolen from his agency car — a crime never solved but one that resulted in a change to sheriff's office policy to prevent such a theft again.
The policy, put in place in February 2010, says law officers should never "leave their guns or other equipment in their cars," agency spokeswoman Becky Herrin said. "No ID, hats that say 'sheriff,' that kind of thing."
But that's what Fricke did when he parked his cruiser at his Big Pine Key home on Sept. 24, the Sheriff's Office said. The following morning, the Special Weapons and Tactics Team member found his car burglarized of a .40-caliber Glock, a .45-caliber Glock, a Colt M4 with a scope, bullet-resistant vest, helmet, padding and ammunition for all three guns.
Residents' calls to Crime Stoppers quickly solved the case, police say, and all of the guns were recovered by Friday. Anthony Ostrander, 26, of Big Pine Key faces a charge of dealing in stolen property charges. Kalvin Cowger, 17, and also from Big Pine Key, faces charges of grand theft and dealing in stolen property.
On Aug. 25, 2009, Fricke, then a deputy, reported the shotgun and two Glocks stolen from his agency-issued 2007 Ford Crown Victoria. He and another deputy searched his car and house for them, to no avail. Numerous people, mostly Marathon and Big Pine Key teens, were questioned in the case, and some hinted they had heard about the theft but no one admitted anything.
Among those questioned and considered a suspect: Franklin Randleman, then 17, of Big Pine. On May 22, 2010, he was shot to death at his grandmother's Big Pine trailer, apparently over drugs. Two Marathon men have been charged with homicide in the slaying.
One of the teens questioned in the gun thefts referred detectives to Randleman "since he had witnessed Mr. Randleman in possession of stolen weapons," a police report says.
Randleman spoke to two detectives, denying involvement, though admitting he knew about the thefts and saw the guns, the report says. He implicated two other teens as having the guns.
However, no one was arrested because of conflicting stories and only the shotgun was recovered -- by a plumber who found it under a porch at the Eastwind Apartments on Sombrero Beach Road in Marathon. Fricke, hired on June 1, 2005, has had no disciplinary actions against him but does have 17 letters of commendation or recognition in his personnel file.
As for the latest gun theft, "We've got an ongoing internal affairs investigation going on," Herrin said.