CBS News has learned a FBI agent's automatic rifle and bulletproof vest were stolen from his vehicle in New Jersey while he was off duty Saturday night.
The high caliber M4 rifle, a military version of the AR-15 rifle, fires a succession of three rounds with one pull of the trigger. The FBI's New Jersey office is currently searching for the weapon.
"It makes our urgency even greater because the weapon is in the hands of a criminal," said Special Agent Bryan L. Travers, a FBI spokesman in Newark, N.J. "We are in charge with protecting the public, and we don't want someone being hurt with our weapon."
Agents are sometimes authorized to have weapons in their car, Travers said. He would not elaborate on the security procedures involved.
"As long as those protocols are followed then the FBI is permitted to store weapons in the vehicle," Travers said.
Agents are working around the clock to locate the stolen weapon and vest, Travers said.
Travers refused to comment on what penalties FBI agents face when their weapons are lost.
"This is an internal thing," Travers said.
CBS News Investigates intern Ashley Hogans contributed to this report.