ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – A St. Louis County police officer may have been targeted when he was attending an Easter Sunday service at a south St. Louis County church.

An incident report said it was only the officer’s car that was broken into in the church parking lot. It was the officer’s personal car. A rear window was smashed between 10:40 a.m. and 12:21 p.m., and the officer’s service belt, which contained his gun and taser, was stolen. His body armor and uniform pants were also reported stolen.

“It is frustrating,” said Sgt. Tracy Panus with the St. Louis County Police Department. “We’re human, and we do people things, and unfortunately, this is the kind of stuff that can happen if we leave our guns or any of our police equipment in our vehicles.”

Panus addressed head-on the fact that police have been warning the public about criminals who often break into cars looking for one thing.

“They are looking for firearms,” she said. “That they can use to commit another crime. So that’s why we’ve really been hammering this down for the last year or two since it’s become a bigger issue in this area.”

Last year, over 1200 guns were stolen from cars in the area. St. Louis County police reported 315 stolen firearms from vehicles in 2022. St. Louis City police reported 922 incidents matching the criteria for firearm theft from a car.

The medical community weighed in on the issue Monday, regarding the dramatic increase in child shooting injuries and deaths.

“This is predictable. This is preventable,” said Dr. Lindsay Cluckies, a pediatric emergency physician at Washington University. “These are injuries we can prevent, and one way to do that is with safe storage of firearms using gun locks.”

Cluckies said it was good news that hospital research discovered their donated gun locks were being used.

“We found that 2/3 of our families were using the locks that we provided to them,” she said. “So, we felt that was a huge success, and that prompted us to expand our efforts.”

St. Louis County police are now reminding their staff that the officer in question is under an internal affairs investigation.

“It’s a lesson to all of us. I live in a rural area. I don’t even have neighbors,” Panus said. “I never leave my gun locked in my car. It’s just not safe.”

A spokesperson for Concord Church, where the officer’s gun was stolen, said it has a “well-organized safety team, including people monitoring the parking lot during services.”

Yet one quick strike in a parking lot that was full on Easter Sunday is potentially life-changing.

“Hopefully, we find this guy and get this stuff off the street before it is used to harm someone else,” Panus said.