A South Tucson police sergeant's gear, including a handgun, were stolen from his patrol car last week.
Sgt. Sean Masters responded to a call just after 8 p.m. Oct. 22 in the 300 block of West 29th Street near the Valencia Market.
The sergeant "got into a tussle with a guy and cuffed him," said Lt. Jeff Inorio, spokesman for the South Tucson Police Department. During the altercation, a second man, later identified as 21-year-old Jose Valenzuela, approached Masters to intervene on the behalf of the man being arrested, but the sergeant told him to leave.
When Masters escorted his handcuffed suspect to the patrol car five to 10 minutes later, he discovered his duffel bag missing from the front seat, according to a search warrant.
The passenger-side door of the patrol car was left unlocked, Inorio said. The bag contained personal and police property.
Stolen were a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun loaded with seven rounds of hollow-point ammunition; six new pocket knives with automatic opening mechanisms; two sets of binoculars; Masters' police ID badge; and department-issued handcuffs and cellphone.
Masters immediately called in the theft and gave a detailed description of the man who, minutes earlier, had tried to intervene in the arrest.
Within five minutes, according to a search warrant statement, Masters heard three to four gunshots and "suspected it could be his stolen firearm."
"The sergeant said he heard shots fired and assumed the worse," said Inorio, however no one was injured.
Two hours later a man matching the suspect's description was seen walking past the police station with another man, Inorio said.
As a South Tucson police officer with his gun drawn approached the pair, one of the men, Jacob Leon, now 18, tossed the stolen gun on the ground. The men were frisked and officers found one of the knives, the handcuffs and several bullets in their possession. The rest of the property was found at the home of a relative.
"Luckily all the property was recovered except for the cellphone," Inorio said.
Though Masters did not "secure his property" in his patrol car, per department rules, no disciplinary action was taken, Inorio said.
Contact reporter Kimberly Matas at email@example.com or at 573-4191.