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WINFIELD — A Valparaiso man who thought it would be funny to wear a police-style bulletproof vest into a Winfield liquor store is now in jail, Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez confirmed late Friday night.

And now a firearm, for which the 24-year-old suspect has no permit, is off the streets thanks to the keen eye of a Lake County SWAT commander, Martinez said.

The incident unfolded at 4 p.m. Friday as SWAT Commander James Stahl was driving through Winfield on Randolph Street, wrapping up his shift.

Stahl spotted a man opening the trunk of an SUV and retrieving and putting on a tactical-style bulletproof vest before heading into a Winfield liquor store.

Thinking it was suspicious, Stahl pulled into the liquor store lot, called in police backup and went inside to confront the suspect.

In the course of questioning the man, several empty ammunition clips for an automatic weapon were found in the 24-year-old Valparaiso man's vest pockets.

A semi-automatic handgun, for which the man had no legal permit, was found in his vehicle, the sheriff said.

The man was being held late Friday, pending gun-related charges, Martinez said.

The sheriff credited the diligent eye of his SWAT commander for leading to the arrest.

"It all started out because the subject thought it would be funny to wear the vest into the liquor store," the sheriff said.

"This is why Commander Stahl is our tactical squad commander. He's an expert at spotting things that look out of the ordinary and protecting the public."

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Editor

Marc Chase is a veteran investigative reporter, columnist and editor of more than two decades. He currently leads The Times news staff as local news editor. He can be reached at 219-933-3327.