KOKOMO, Ind.– Howard County gun owner Billy Swaggerty said he learned a bitter lesson after his back door was kicked in last spring and more than a dozen firearms, some of them assault-style rifles, and the safes they were kept in were stolen.
“Be careful who you tell, keep it to yourself, don’t be bragging about how many guns you got, be careful who you let into your house and make sure you buy a quality safe,” he said. “And that’s another thing…don’t let strippers in your house.”
Swaggerty said last winter a woman he knew in passing showed up at his front door on Kokomo’s north side, shivering without a coat, and asking if he still had a spare bedroom.
Over his wife’s objections, Swaggerty let the woman move in.
“And I put her in the bedroom with the safes and it came back and bit me,” he said. “The fact is she was a stripper is what we found out. We didn’t know that she was a stripper.”
A stripper with a husband who was in prison on a drug charge with a substance abuse problem herself, said Swaggerty who came home for lunch on May 3 and realized someone had kicked in his backdoor and stole all his guns and the safes in which they were stored.
“I had probably three .22 rifles, two shotguns, numerous pistols, I had an SKS which is .762 millimeter, I had an AK 74 which is a 5.54 millimeter and I had an AR 15 which I just got for Christmas which is a .556 millimeter,” said Swaggerty, who estimated his guns were worth $10,000.
While the guns were locked in safes, the cabinets were constructed of thin steel and were not secured to the floor meaning two people would be able to move them.
“It wasn’t just her and they better brought a truck because they didn’t put them in a car,” said Haggerty, who found tire tracks in his side yard after the theft.
According to recent statistics released by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), 13.2 million new guns, both manufactured domestically and imported, were added to America’s existing arsenal in 2015.
IMPD has recorded 555 stolen gun reports through Aug. 31 of this year, nearly half of them taken from vehicles often left unlocked.
“There’s more guns available, there’s more guns being stolen,” said Dr. Jody Lynee Madeira of the IU Law School, who tracks Indiana gun laws. “We’re creating an enormous supply of guns in trunks where the criminals know exactly pretty much where to find them.
“I think the proliferation of guns is connected to the increase in murders that Indiana has experienced which I think is up 4.1 percent in the last year (according to recent FBI statistics).”
Swaggerty is worried any one of his 16 stolen guns could end up in the wrong hands, and already have.
“Word is is that she went to her drug dealer and sold my guns for $450,” said Swaggerty, who has the name of the suspected purchaser. “My worst fear is one of my guns is gonna kill a child.”
Swaggerty considers himself a responsible legal gun owner who has been victimized by his good nature and firearms security that wasn’t tough enough.
“Why do I collect them? Why do people collect bottle caps? I like guns,” he said. “Make sure you buy a big enough safe and make sure you bolt it to the floor and you make sure you bolt it to your wall.”
Kokomo Police say the theft of Billy Swaggerty’s guns is still an open investigation. If you have any information, call Kokomo police at (765) 456-7322.