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Mercer Island police apprehend five teenagers with loaded guns in car

Mercer Island police recovered an AR-15 rifle (pictured) and a UZI machine pistol from a group of young men in the South Luther Burbank parking lot on Wednesday night. Photo courtesy of Mercer Island Police Department -
Mercer Island police recovered an AR-15 rifle (pictured) and a UZI machine pistol from a group of young men in the South Luther Burbank parking lot on Wednesday night. Photo courtesy of Mercer Island Police Department
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Mercer Island police apprehended five young men in the South Luther Burbank parking lot who were found with a bulletproof vest, ammunition and two loaded guns in their vehicle on Wednesday night.

The driver was 19 years old, and the four other suspects were 15-16 years old and from Pierce County. Two of the four had warrants out of California and Florida. Three were booked into King County Juvenile custody and one was released to his mother. The juveniles are facing charges of illegal possession of a firearm.

The 19-year old driver and self-confessed owner of the rifles was booked into the King County Jail one felon charge — firearm delivery to ineligible persons — and one misdemeanor charge — loaded rifle in a vehicle. He is from Puyallup.

Mercer Island Police Department (MIPD) Sgt. Mike Seifert and officers John Haraway, Tim Derr and George Schmalhofer approached the vehicle at about 10:25 p.m. on March 23.

"As is common under these circumstances, the occupants suffered an identity crisis and could not immediately recall their legal names and were unable to spell the aliases they provided," MIPD Services Commander Leslie Burns wrote on the Mercer Island Police and Emergency Management Facebook page.

Schmalhofer attempted to coax the correct name out of one of the subjects when he noticed the bulletproof vest inside the car. The boys claimed to be playing "Airsoft," but officers did not buy the story, Burns said.

Officers discovered a .22 caliber rifle and an AR-15 rifle in the car, and one of the occupants confessed to having a rifle magazine in his back pocket. One by one, the occupants were removed from the vehicle and placed in handcuffs. The officers then determined that the guns were not Airsoft rifles.

"They were the real deal and both had rounds in the chamber (ready to fire)," Burns wrote.

The group was transported to MIPD and finally properly identified.

"So far we have been unable to determine exactly what the group was intending, but I think we can safely conclude the officers foiled whatever felonious activities the group was planning," Burns wrote.

MIPD detectives applied for a search warrant and, if granted, they will conduct a thorough search of the vehicle. They brought the rifles to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on Thursday.

"ATF will be test firing the weapon to see if they can match it to any crimes in our area," Burns told the Reporter.

The group's plans are still unknown.

"At this point the detectives cannot determine what they were intending to do or where," Burns said. "If they don't tell us, which they likely won't, we will never really know. They said they were on their way to one of the kid's girlfriend's house in Seattle and they stopped here to go to the bathroom."

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