COLUMBIA, Maine&nbsp- Four people apparently smashed the front door at the Four Corners Rod and Gun Shop on Route 1 early Monday morning, broke a display case and stole 12 handguns.

Around 3:45 a.m. the alarm at the gun shop went off, and Sgt. Travis Willey of the Washington County Sheriff’ s Department was at the gun shop within six minutes.

Police believe the thieves were looking for money because they first broke into two soda machines at the nearby Columbia Supermarket and Gasoline Station and took an undisclosed amount of cash. They then broke into an oil storage display rack that was locked, but did not steal any of the quarts of oil.

“They just broke into it and looked around,” Willey said.

Willey said police were looking for four suspects. Police have information about the vehicle they might have been in and are asking for the public’ s help.

“We know they were there about an hour skulking around doing this the last thing being the gun shop,” he said. “From what little video I was able to gather, there were several vehicles that went by on Route 1 and those side roads. Someone, hopefully, saw something. I am looking for any witnesses that saw anything at all.”

Anyone with information should call 255-4422.

Sheriff Donnie Smith said Monday the break-in was one of the largest handgun thefts he was aware of in recent times in Washington County. Several years ago, there was an incident involving stolen guns, but he said he did not believe that a large number of handguns were taken.

“I don’ t think [that guy] lugged 12 guns out that time,” the sheriff said.

Smith said he believed the break-in was drug-related. “They started out with Coke machines. … People who break into soda machines don’ t usually in turn steal handguns,” he said. “I think they were looking for cash any way they could get it.”

Although Willey said he did not know whether it was local people, Smith believed they were. “They had to know the firearms were in there and they also had an idea of where they were because the alarm went off immediately and they had to get in and out very quick because Travis was there in six minutes,” he said.

The sheriff also asked for the public’ s help and said people could call the Sheriff’ s Department anonymously. “They can leave a message on anyone’ s voice mail. We don’ t have caller ID we can’ t track those calls,” he said.