Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria says only that stolen AK-47 rifle was a 'personal item'

PORT CHARLOTTE — Among the items stolen Saturday from the Port Charlotte rental home shared by three prominent Tampa Bay Rays was an AK-47 rifle belonging to star third baseman Evan Longoria.

Longoria declined Monday to elaborate on why he had the gun, which is commonly referred to as an assault rifle.

"It's a personal item," Longoria said. "Obviously, they (authorities) are going to say things that are taken. I think everything within the house is personal, and we'll just leave it at that."

The Charlotte County Sheriff's Office, which released the information, said the gun was "perfectly legal" and "absolutely, perfectly legitimate, fully documented," said public information officer Bob Carpenter.

The investigation into the midday break-in at the house shared by Longoria, ace pitcher David Price and shortstop Reid Brignac is continuing.

The Sheriff's Office said the thieves gained access to the house, on Fernwood Street near the Charlotte Sports Park, through an unlocked window. The players were at the stadium for their game at the time.

Police put a $56,000 estimate on the value of the stolen items, which the players said also included a 60-inch flat-screen TV, three iPads, two Xbox game systems, cash, Price's laptop and several of Price's fancy watches.

"It's definitely something that, obviously, you never want to have happen to you or your friends," said Longoria, who recently had a classic car stolen from the lot of an Arizona refurbishing shop. "It's just twice in the past month … for me that something has been taken. All of us hope that justice is served for them. And I think we're all just happy that everybody is safe and nobody was injured."

Two Tampa Bay area gun experts said the main use of the AK-47, a high-powered rifle first made in Russia, is for recreational shooting, such as at a range.

"The only time a person would need a rifle of that magnitude (outside a range) is if they're fending off zombies," said Fritz Casper, an instructor at Shooting Sports, a N Dale Mabry Highway gun range and shop in Tampa.

The AK-47 is a common choice for gun enthusiasts, he said, mostly because it is cheap, available for as little as $300 to $400.

"It's a ubiquitous gun," Casper said. "It's inexpensive. It's simple to use. It's simple to fix."

Dennis Patriarca, owner of the VIP Security Training school in Tampa, said the AK-47 is "a good protection gun, but it's mainly a recreational-type thing."

For many gun owners, Casper said, it's not about need but want.

"If a dude wants to be cool and goes and gets a Corvette, it has nothing to do with the fact that he's going to go take that Corvette and go race at 165 mph," Casper said. "It's like that. Shooting guns is fun. An AK-47 is fun."

And they can be a collector's item, said Patriarca, who has one but doesn't fire it.

Meanwhile, Longoria said the incident will not be a distraction for the upcoming season, which starts Friday.

"This is, hopefully, just a one-day thing where we talk about this and leave it behind us," he said in Tampa before Monday's game with the Yankees was rained out. "We didn't lose anything that is going to prevent us from playing baseball. That's the focus, and, hopefully, we can find out who did this and move forward from there."

Carpenter said the investigation is continuing, and his department welcomes calls with any information about the case at (941) 639-2101 or toll-free at (800) 780-8477.

Times staff writer Joe Smith and Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report.

Evan Longoria declined to say why he had the gun. A Tampa gun instructor said the only time someone would need such a rifle, outside a range, is for “fending off zombies.”

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Evan Longoria declined to say why he had the gun. A Tampa gun instructor said the only time someone would need such a rifle, outside a range, is for “fending off zombies.”

Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria says only that stolen AK-47 rifle was a 'personal item' 03/28/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 12:11am]

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