CELINA — An arrest has been made in connection with the break-in of a Mercer County Sheriff's car earlier this week.
In a news release, Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey reported his office is in the process of updating policies on firearms that are stored in office vehicles. The sheriff’s office does not disclose the types of weapons deputies have at their disposal as it is a risk to deputies for criminals to know what resources are available and what resources are not available.
Firearms in marked patrol vehicles are kept in the passenger compartment for easy access when needed. They are secured by locked storage racks, making their theft difficult. Unmarked vehicles carry firearms in other locations in an attempt to be as accessible as possible, but without compromising the covert nature of the vehicle.
“We believe that the detective’s car that was broken into was a random theft from a vehicle and the suspect did not know at the time that it was a detective’s car,” Grey said.
Sheriff cars, both marked and unmarked, carry many tools needed for the performance of law enforcement duties, many items that are needed in an instant. These tools, which include self-defense weapons, are stored in the cars even when the cars are not within surveillance of the deputy/detective.
It takes hours to equip the cars — it would be impractical to completely unload the vehicle whenever the vehicle was not in a protected area, much like a contractor or plumber, who does not unload the work truck every night. The sheriff’s office is now reviewing the cost of securely mounting gun safes in the trunks of the unmarked vehicles to deter future thefts. Until safes can be acquired and installed, firearms have been removed from all unmarked vehicles and are being stored in the sheriff’s office armory.
“We regret that this theft occurred,” Grey said. “And we will address the storage of firearms in the vehicles in a policy format in the near future. We own our mistakes, we learn from them, and then we take steps to prevent a reoccurrence. That is about all we can do at this point. No excuses, just striving to be better.”
The investigation into the theft is ongoing. The firearm was recovered shortly after noon on Thursday and an arrest was made shortly after 8 p.m. Thursday. Sheriff’s Detectives arrested Paul Michael Hiser, 37, last known address in Celina, for allegedly receiving stolen property. He is being held in the Mercer County Adult Detention Facility awaiting review of the case by the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office and the filing of formal charges.
Hiser has a long history of theft offenses his most recent incarceration was in February for theft and again in March of this year for contempt of court. As the investigation continues, more charges may be filed against Hiser.