The last of three men charged with stealing a military rifle and other items from an unmarked Columbus police vehicle was sentenced May 23 to three years in prison.
Buford D. Lowery, 38, pleaded guilty to theft of a firearm, theft, tampering with evidence, being a felon in possession of a gun and a gun specification in connection with the July 13, 2016 break-in of a police SUV parked behind the York Steak House at 4220 W. Broad St. on the West Side.
Assistant Prosecutor John Gripshover said Lowery was in a pickup truck driven by Craig Stewart, 35, when they pulled up beside the SUV.
Surveillance video captured images of Lowery getting out of the pickup, breaking a window in the SUV and removing numerous items, he said.
The items included an M-16 automatic rifle, a .40-caliber handgun, a ballistic vest marked "POLICE," a gun belt and badge, a rifle-mounted flashlight and 120 rounds of ammunition. Most of the items, including the guns, have not been recovered.
"I don't believe that Mr. Lowery and Mr. Stewart knew, when they happened upon this particular vehicle, what they were getting into," Gripshover said.
"I don't believe they, in any way, shape or form, knew that vehicle was a police vehicle, an undercover vehicle."
Stewart was sentenced in January to six months in Franklin County's Community-Based Correctional Facility and six months of probation. He pleaded guilty to three counts of theft and one count of being a felon in possession of a gun and agreed to testify against his co-defendants if their cases went to trial.
Randolph Wagoner, 54, was sentenced May 2 to two and a half years in prison after pleading guilty to tampering with evidence, obstructing official business and a gun specification.
Prosecutors said he took possession of the rifle and some other stolen items and eventually got rid of them.
All of the sentences were recommended by prosecuting and defense attorneys and imposed by Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Stephen L. McIntosh.