ST. GEORGE — Police are requesting the public’s help in recovering a rifle and body armor taken from an unmarked Washington County Sheriff’s vehicle that was broken into during the early morning hours Thanksgiving Day in St. George.
Police have arrested the suspect allegedly responsible for the vehicle burglary, according to a statement released by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office Wednesday.
They have also recovered a number of police-related items stolen during the incident, but have yet to locate either the body armor or the AR-15 rifle with a serial number of A0186353.
A $2,500 reward is being offered for information leading to the recovery of the rifle for the first person that comes forward. Additionally, that individual will be granted immunity from prosecution, even if they illegally obtained or had possession of the weapon, according to the Washington County Attorney’s Office.
Sheriff Cory Pulsipher, Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap and Washington County Commissioners “have authorized a reward for the first person who provides information that results in the immediate return of the rifle to authorities,” the statement said.
The case stems from an incident in which an off-duty Washington County Sheriff’s deputy’s unmarked pickup truck was reportedly broken into shortly after 4:30 a.m. on Nov. 28 near a residence in St. George, according to the probable cause statement filed with the court.
The St. George Police Department responded, and as detectives processed the scene for evidence, they located surveillance footage that revealed a suspect, later identified 19-year-old Preston Farnsworth of St. George, walking toward the driveway of the residence where the pickup truck was parked. Once the suspect gained access, he was seen rummaging through the interior of the truck for several minutes and was then seen removing the rifle and other items from the vehicle. Farnsworth walked down the driveway and continued out of the range of the camera.
According to police, the footage showed the suspect’s face and clothing, photographs of which were captured and circulated to local law enforcement. The lead detective was able to identify Farnsworth as a potential suspect shortly thereafter.
Offices also received information that led them to a residence in St. George where they found the suspect hiding in a corner of the garage before officers transported him to the police station for questioning. Officers also noticed that the suspect “appeared to be wearing similar, if not the same, clothing and shoes observed on video surveillance.”
The suspect allegedly admitted to breaking into the vehicle and to taking the AR-15, ammunition and other items, but told the officers he was “not sure” exactly where the rifle was at the time of the interview, the report states.
The suspect was transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility and later charged with two second-degree felony counts of theft and two third-degree felonies, including theft and purchase, transfer or possession of a firearm by a restricted person. He was also charged with misdemeanor vehicle burglary, criminal trespass and possession of marijuana and paraphernalia.
Detectives continue to pursue leads to recover the rifle and body armor and are asking for the public’s help. Anyone with information is being asked to contact Detective Jud Callaway at the St. George Police Department at 435-627-4411, and reference report number 19P030882, or any local law enforcement agency.
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