Twelve submachine guns donated to the Precinct 5 Nueces County Constable’s Office were recently turned away by county leaders who felt the guns presented too much of a risk for law enforcement officers.

Precinct 5 Constable Dionicio “Don” Ysassi said he gave away all 12 of the submachine guns to law enforcement agencies outside Nueces County on Friday. Those included five to departments in Jim Wells County, six to Kleberg County and one to Duval County, he said.

“If the other counties (need) them, then they can put them to good use,” Ysassi said.

The weapons, which were donated by Heckler and Koch Defense in Ashburn, Va., had been up for approval at an Aug. 31 meeting of the Nueces County Commissioners Court.

The item was tabled briefly before county leaders went into executive session to discuss it. They later returned to unanimously reject the donation.

Purchasing Agent Elsa Saenz later sent Ysassi a letter informing him that he had to return the weapons to the manufacturer immediately.

Ysassi said the court’s decision surprised him because he felt like his 12 deputies needed the weapons, valued at up to $23,000 each, to remain safe, especially since they cover more than 300 miles of Nueces County, much of it rural.

“We could have kept them and used them,” he said, adding that the deputies would have undergone training for certification before being issued one of the weapons.

County Judge Loyd Neal said the motion was denied because the submachine guns were too much of a liability for the county and law enforcement officials, especially given that there is always a risk that one of the weapons could be stolen or targeted for theft by criminals.

Neal said deputies themselves could also become targets for criminals who find out the deputies were carrying submachine guns in their vehicles during operations.

“We were putting those (deputy) constables at risk by letting them walk around with weapons like that,” Neal said. “We just didn’t think they (guns) were worth the risk, quite frankly.”

The constable said the manufacturer did not want the guns returned, so Ysassi opted to donate them to law enforcement agencies that have assisted the department in the past.

“We had them donated to us, but they slipped through our hands and they’re gone now,” he said.