By Mark Abrams

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia Police Department is investigating the disappearance of an M-16 assault rifle from its own inventory.

This morning, police commissioner Charles Ramsey held a press conference to announce that during an audit conducted last week the department learned that one of the 1,356 Vietnam-era M-16 rifles given to the PPD by the federal government in 2009 is missing.

m16 missing type _mab

(An M-16 rifle owned by the Philadelphia Police Department. Another of the department’s 1,356 M-16s is not accounted for. Image from Phila. PD, photo by Mark Abrams)


Ramsey said it is not clear whether the weapon was stolen by a member of the department or whether the discrepancy is merely a paperwork error.

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He says the M-16s — in the process of being converted from fully automatic to semi-automatic operation — are kept behind a locked, alarmed door at the Philadelphia Police Academy in Northeast Philadelphia.

(The gun closet that the Philadelphia Police Academy.   Image from Phila. PD, photo by Mark Abrams)

(The gun closet that the Philadelphia Police Academy. Image from Phila. PD, photo by Mark Abrams)


Regrettably, the commissioner added, there is no video camera watching that door, which has a pushbutton combination lock.  He added that only a “limited” number of people have the combination.

Ramsey says he is confident the weapon was not taken by someone from outside the police department.  He emphasizes that at this point the weapon is not accounted for, and if the rifle was in fact stolen he will make sure the perpetrator faces federal prosecution.

Probes by both the police department’s internal affairs unit and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms are underway.  The FBI has also been notified.

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