Pilfered pistol | CraigDailyPress.com

Pilfered pistol

Iraq veteran's gun stolen from his car

Brandon Johnson

After spending a few days in Craig visiting a fellow Iraq war veteran, Jason Van Auken considered moving to town permanently from New Mexico.

But on Thursday, someone broke into the 23-year-old Army veteran’s truck and stole a pistol given to Van Auken by his father.

“Now, I can’t wait to leave,” he said.

Van Auken said his father gave him the rare, German

9 millimeter before he left for Iraq in 2003 so he could carry it in combat.

He returned to New Mexico in July and was given a medical retirement from the Army after suffering combat injuries, he said.

The pistol was with him when he fought in Baghdad’s Sadr City, Mosul, Basra and a handful of other Iraqi cities during his two tours of duty with the 2nd Cavalry, he said.

“I take it everywhere with me — until now,” he said.

The thieves also stole his car stereo, speakers and amplifier, he said. But Van Auken said he isn’t concerned about that.

“They can keep the stereo equipment,” he said. “I just want the gun back.”

Van Auken said he went to a friend’s house Thursday at about 7:30 p.m. to play cards.

He parked his Ford Ranger at the 700 block of East Victory Way, near the east Kum & Go and the Moffat County Fairgrounds.

When he left his friend’s house at about 11:30 p.m., the passenger door to his truck was unlocked, and his car stereo had been ripped out, leaving a gaping hole in the dash.

The pistol, which was in the glove compartment, also was gone.

The thieves also stole thousands of dollars worth of stereo equipment and caused about $1,000 worth of damage to the truck, he said.

But although they grabbed the stereo and the pistol, the thieves didn’t take an assault rifle Van Auken had placed behind the driver’s seat.

There were no signs of forced entry, and police aren’t sure how the thieves got in, Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta said.

Van Auken said he is certain he locked his truck when he parked it.

The thieves probably used a “slim Jim” to open the door, he said.

Officers found fingerprints on the truck, according to police reports.

But Van Auken isn’t confident the police will find the culprit or his gun.

Unless the thieves try to sell the gun, he doesn’t think he’ll ever see it again, he said.

He also said he doubts that the thieves would care that they stole from a veteran.

His truck has several stickers signifying his service. An “Operation Iraqi Freedom” hat was on the dashboard of the truck as thieves collected their loot, Van Auken said.

“Clearly, they knew they were robbing a combat vet,” he said.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or bjohansson@craigdailypress.com.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Craig and Moffat County make the Craig Press’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.