WESTFIELD, Mass. (The Westfield News) – A city man whose pickup truck was stolen has been charged with improper storage of a firearm after his truck, which had been parked with the keys in the center console, and the handgun stored in it, were stolen from his Montgomery Road home early Saturday morning.
The owner, Connor R. Hawkins, of 119 Montgomery Road, reported to police at 1:55 a.m. Saturday that he heard the distinctive sound of his diesel pickup truck starting up in the parking lot of his apartment complex but was not immediately concerned because he thought a friend was playing a prank on him. The man called his friend who protested his innocence and the victim then called police as he left his apartment to give chase in his girlfriend’s car.
He said he scoured the neighborhood without finding his truck and picked up a friend at his Russellville Road home before continuing the search. Hawkins’ friend reported to police at 2:08 a.m. that they found the truck parked near Sadie Knox Playground.
Hawkins later told police that the operator of the stolen truck put it in reverse and rammed into the car he was using. He said that his friend then got out of the car and ran up to the truck in an effort to stop the suspect but the thief drove off, with the victim’s friend hanging on to the truck for a short distance. Hawkins said that he followed in the damaged car while his friend ran after the truck which reached a speed estimated to be about 40 mph before it stopped again.
Witnesses told police that the truck then accelerated backward, reaching a speed of about 30 mph, and struck the car again, causing the air bags to deploy and riding up on top of the car. Hawkins said, fearful of what could happen next, he exited the car as his truck drove away, dragging the car, and turned on to Atwater Street where the pursuers lost sight of it.
When officers found the truck the suspect had fled. They searched the area for the suspect but, although a State Police K-9 team responded to try and track the suspect, he was not found.
The gun which Hawkins said had been in the truck was not found either. Hawkins told Officer Matthew Schultze that he grew up on a farm and habitually leaves his vehicles unlocked, with the keys in the center console in plain sight. Also in plain sight, Hawkins said, was a padlocked plastic case where he keeps a .22 caliber semiautomatic pistol.
Capt. Michael McCabe said later that the reason it is illegal to keep a firearm in a vehicle is that a gun stored in a vehicle can be vulnerable any time the owner leaves the vehicle which is itself prone to theft. A criminal complaint was filed against Hawkins and detectives will continue to search for the thief and the missing pistol.
Media Credit: The Westfield News