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"Embarrassed": N.H. police search for semi-automatic rifle lost by cop

SALEM, N.H. -- An "embarrassed" New Hampshire police department scrambled to find a semi-automatic rifle lost by an officer on Tuesday, CBS Boston reports.

Salem police said that about 3:45 p.m., the officer put his black canvas bag carrying his patrol rifle on the trunk of his cruiser while getting ready for his shift.

"The officer did not secure his rifle in the trunk of the cruiser prior to driving out of the police station parking lot," police said in a statement. "The officer was dispatched to several calls after leaving the parking lot and believes the bag containing the rifle fell off of the trunk as he left the parking lot."

Police described the rifle as a Colt M4 Commando 5.56mm semi-automatic only patrol carbine with an 11.5-inch barrel.

The officer didn't realize his rifle was lost until his shift ended at 11:45 p.m. He immediately notified supervisors and that's when police say an extensive search began.

Police believe the rifle may have fallen off somewhere between Veterans Memorial Parkway through the Depot area, or in the Howard Street block area where the officer first responded to calls for service.

The canvas bag may have been picked up by someone who doesn't know what to do with the rifle, police said. There are "severe" penalties for unauthorized possession of the weapon, which is stamped with "Restricted Government/Law Enforcement/Export Use Only," police said.

But authorities want whoever found the rifle to come forward with no fear of punishment.

"We are asking that Good Samaritan to return the rifle to the Salem Police Department or call 603.893.1911 and we will pick it up with no questions asked," police said. "If the person does not feel comfortable with turning it into the Police Department they can turn it in at a local gun shop, or any other safe place ensure its safe return."

Police acknowledged the public safety risk posed by the lost rifle, and say they will conduct an internal investigation to make sure it doesn't happen again.

"This is undoubtedly a failure to follow established policy and procedures," police said. "We are embarrassed as an agency and no one feels worse than the officer who lost the bag."