As the legal system grinds through defendants charged in one of Fife’s most notorious heists, guns taken in the Christmastime 2011 burglary of a sporting goods store continue to turn up, one as far away at Connecticut.
Authorities say it might take years to recover all 41 firearms stolen from the Sportco/Farwest Sports, if they ever are able to retrieve them all.
“It’s not often you’re just going to find one or have someone turn one in,” Fife police detective Jeff Nolta said Tuesday. “I expect I’ll be getting calls for the rest of my career from somebody saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got one of your guns.’”
So far, nine of the firearms taken in the burglary have turned up, including one authorities believe was used in a carjacking in Connecticut, allegedly perpetrated by a Western Washington resident back East for a visit.
Another was recovered after allegedly being used in a Tacoma drive-by shooting, another in the Wenatchee area following a robbery, yet another alongside a ski mask stuffed into the pocket of a jacket found on the roof of a Burien-area house.
Of the other five recovered guns, three were found on defendants charged in the burglary, and two others were retrieved during law enforcement searches in Seattle and Tacoma, Nolta said.
The recovered firearms are being turned over to Sportco once they no longer are needed as evidence in the criminal cases, the detective said.
Nolta said he’s not sure the rest are in circulation. Publicity about the burglary might have prompted the thieves to dump the remaining guns.
“I think there’s a stash of them somewhere,” he said.
The guns were swiped Dec. 17 by two men who broke into the sporting goods store at 4602 20th St. E., smashed glass display cases, stuffed the firearms into bags and fled. Thirty-nine handguns and two rifles were stolen. One thief wore a Santa hat, according to video surveillance footage.
Ten men eventually were charged with multiple crimes, including theft, burglary, trafficking in stolen property and conspiracy. Prosecutors say the men intended to steal and then sell or trade the guns on the black market.
Eight have been convicted so far, including 30-year-old Soeun Sun, whom Nolta considers one of the ringleaders. Witnesses told investigators Sun was trying to sell numerous guns after the robbery, including a duffel bag full of handguns in West Seattle a few days after the break-in, court records show.
A Pierce County jury on Friday found him guilty of unlawful possession of a firearm, theft of a firearm, first-degree burglary, trafficking in stolen property and two counts of conspiracy. Sun faces life in prison without the possibility of parole under Washington’s “three strikes you’re out” law, deputy prosecutor Greg Greer said.
“Unless he’s successful on appeal, he’s done,” Greer said.
Sun complained to Superior Court Judge James Orlando that his right to a speedy trial and to an effective lawyer had been violated, but Orlando convened a jury to hear the case.
Sun is to be sentenced July 21.
Another man, Savanny Heng, has been arrested and is to go to trial this month. The last defendant, Joseph Soueng, remains at large.
Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644