The videotape shows a white pickup truck plowing through the front of a Manassas gun store -- in reverse. A short, stocky man jumps out of the vehicle, and using a long, blunt object, he shatters a display case, rummages inside and helps himself to three handguns.
The unusual breaking and entering -- by pickup truck -- was captured early Monday by a surveillance camera at Virginia Arms Co. The man sped off before police arrived, leaving tire tracks on the gray carpet.
"Burglars will break a window to get in -- not drive their car through it," said Sgt. Bill Goodman, a Manassas City police spokesman. "Most go through open windows or unlocked doors. If he'll go to those extremes to commit a crime, who knows what he's going to do with those weapons."
Police said the videotape is crucial to their investigation because there are no witnesses. The burglary occurred sometime before 4:30 a.m. on Memorial Day at a Manassas strip mall, not far from the county police department.
Police did not get a good look at the truck's license plate on the grainy videotape but are hoping it is visible on a second videotape taken from a surveillance camera in the back of the store on Center Street.
Because burglars tend to act with more stealth, the Memorial Day break-in was somewhat mystifying and alarming, police said. Manassas City police Detective E.C. Rivera said the man probably pulled up to within about 30 feet of the storefront, "threw it in reverse, and sped into the building," he said.
The store's alarm company called Manassas City police at 4:29 p.m., and police arrived in about 31/2 minutes, Rivera said. According to the videotape, the burglary took about 20 seconds, and the suspect ransacked one display case only, completely ignoring more powerful and expensive firearms hanging on the wall in front of him.
Two of the stolen handguns were manufactured by CZ with $450 price tags, police said. The third was an $850 handgun made by Heckler & Koch. The thief did not take ammunition.
The burglar passed up more expensive weapons, including an AK-47, a Bushmaster sniper rifle and a $3,400 assault weapon also manufactured by Heckler & Koch -- the Mercedes-Benz of gun makers, police said.
"He was not a particularly bright thief. He was not very choosy or selective. There were other, flashier items," said Bernie Conatser, 35, who co-owns the store with his wife and his mother.
Rivera said the man left behind a few pieces of "key evidence," but he did not disclose what they were. Detectives spent yesterday afternoon looking for fingerprints on the storefront glass, while the store's employees were cleaning up guns thrown around and scratched up in the crash.
Police and Conatser estimated that it would cost $28,000 to repair the damage done to the storefront and its metal security gate, its 2,200-square-foot interior and some of the weapons.
The Conatsers have owned Virginia Arms Co. since February 1998, and the business has since become a popular place for law enforcement personnel to purchase backup weapons, sunglasses and official badges.