GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Two of the suspects in the theft of more than 30 firearms from metro Grand Rapids gun stores were busted after Snapchat images surfaced of them holding stolen weapons, according to court records.
Making brief appearances in Kent County District Court Wednesday afternoon were 17-year-old Desiree Taggart, who told police she lives with her mother in Grand Rapids and attends the Covenant House Academy for at-risk students, and 18-year-old Cameron Ellis-Ayers. Both are being charged as adults, which means they each face a decade in prison.
They are the oldest of eight people — the youngest only 13 years old — charged with breaking into two gun stores last month and taking a total of 33 guns, 28 of which are still unaccounted for.
The first theft happened Sept. 16 at the Cabela’s in Grandville, where 13 guns were taken. Within a couple days, four juveniles were taken into custody. Five guns were recovered in that case; eight are still on the streets.
One of the teens arrested, who 24 Hour News 8 is not naming because he is a juvenile, had to be released when his mom bonded him out, but he was arrested again days later for his involvement in the break-in of the Barracks 616 gun store in Cascade Township on Sept. 23. Another 20 guns were taken in that burglary.
After the Barracks 616 break-in, police were able to track down Snapchat videos, according to court records. One showed Ellis-Ayers holding multiple handguns with the store price tags still attached. He was riding in a red Jeep with one of the other teen suspects. Another video shows a woman police believe to be Taggart with a handgun in her lap.
Three days after the gun thefts, the fugitive task force — which includes local law enforcement and the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives — stopped a red Jeep driven by Taggart. Ellis-Ayers and another co-defendant were with her.
Police searched the vehicle and took cellphones they say had been used to search the internet for information on Barracks 616. Taggart’s phone also allegedly included a map history that included directions to Barracks 616.
After he was arrested on Sept. 26, police say Ellis-Ayers admitted he was in the car used for the break-in. He apparently named Taggart as the driver in multiple break-ins of gun stores. Police say Ellis-Ayers said the handguns, described by police as “very unique and expensive” were taken to Muskegon and sold.
Police say text messages on the confiscated cellphones ‘substantiated’ Ellis-Ayers’ confession.
“Our concern is we want to get these guns off the street before they are used to harm somebody in this community or another community,” ATF Special Agent in Charge Thomas Chittum told 24 Hour News 8.
Chittum said none of the guns have been recovered and a $5,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of the firearms remains up for grabs.
Anyone who might know where the remaining stolen firearms are now, or who has information about any other burglaries of gun stores, can call 1.800.ATF.GUNS (283.4867) and provide their tip. They can remain anonymous.