Police charge man for gun store hit

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Investigators have identified one suspect in last month’s burglary of a local gun store, and some accomplices are in their sights.

Evidence recovered after the July 18 smash-and-grab tied Wesley Felton Nelson to the incident, Kilgore Police Department Detective Sgt. Trae Portwood said. The Longview resident’s in jail, facing multiple charges from this incident and others, with bonds totaling more than $125,000.

So far, the 26-year-old is the only one tapped for the theft of more than 30 rifles and handguns from Smitty’s Guns & Ammo on Hwy. 259, but he’s not the only one who’s been arrested.

“We’re looking at several suspects,” Portwood said. “He’s the only one that’s been charged in the actual burglary of the gun store at this point.

“We hope to charge some others. We have arrested some other people but on unrelated charges.”

According to Portwood, the suspect was linked to the incident through fingerprints recovered during the investigation and checked against existing databases.

“He’s got a pretty extensive criminal history,” the detective noted.

Nelson was booked into Gregg County Jail Aug. 3 and remains incarcerated, per judicial records, facing bonds totaling $127,500. Two of five charges are tied to an offense from early April, with two $50,000 bonds for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon. There’s also an additional $10,000 bond for a burglary of a habitation charge from a Dec. 9 offense.

Two counts out of Rusk County include unauthorized use of a vehicle ($7,500 bond) and theft of firearm ($10,000) – in July’s incident, investigators say the burglars stole a vehicle from a neighborhood near the gun shop and used it to rip the barred door off the business, located in the Rusk County portion of Kilgore. They were in and out in a matter of minutes as police responded to the store’s alarm.

Ultimately, the gun store owners and local investigators (assisted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms) determined 32 firearms were stolen that morning. They found the suspect’s stolen vehicle abandoned on Peterson Road in Rusk County.

With the case ongoing, Portwood’s not ready to go into detail at this point on the links between the defendant and his as-yet-unnamed accomplices

“He has not been cooperating,” the detective said Tuesday. “We do have some connections between him and the other suspects though … I can tell you that we’re still working this thing actively and I don’t want to put out too much.

As for the guns, “We’ve had several tips on places they could have gone, but all the tips are different, so we really don’t know. None of them have been recovered yet.”

Rattled after the rifles and pistols were stolen a month back, gun store owner Marion “Smitty” Smith is glad at least one suspect is awaiting trial for the crime.

He’s concerned, of course, the stolen firearms haven’t been recovered – an inventory has been shipped to law enforcement agencies, gun stores and pawn shops.

“They have not found even one gun. They feel like they’re out of this area,” he said. As for the suspects, after looking at Nelson’s criminal history, “I thought, at least maybe they got the worst one off the street.”

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