Friday, January 23, 2009


Our patriots, their terrorists, revisited...

Is terrorism defined by skin color?

I have a nagging feeling it still is. 37 machine guns, 60 hand grenades, pounds of C-4, grenade launchers...if these had been collected by a group of black or brown people it would be front-page news all over the country—probably with headlines saying, more or less “Terror Cell Busted?” But, since it was collected by a white guy (working alone? I doubt it!), it didn’t get that kind of coverage at all. Just a little story about a guy who had some odd choices in weapons...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009 - Page updated at 09:24 AM

Grenade launchers, machine guns, C-4, weapons cache stuns agents

By Mike Carter

Seattle Times staff reporter

A 65-year-old Spokane man has been ordered held in custody on federal charges of illegally possessing automatic weapons and illegally storing explosives in a Bellevue commercial storage shed while agents investigate how he came to possess a huge military-grade arsenal that included grenade launchers, machine guns and plastic explosives.

Ronald Struve, heavyset and bearded, appeared in Seattle before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Alice Theiler on Tuesday after being extradited from Spokane, where he was arrested Jan. 7 during a raid by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).

In four searches in Bellevue and Spokane, agents seized 37 machine guns, 12 silencers, two grenade launchers, more than 60 high-explosive grenades, several pounds of military-grade C-4 plastic explosives and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

Most of this material was stored in commercial sheds near businesses and homes, said Assistant U. S. Attorney Thomas Woods.

At a detention hearing set for Friday, Woods said he will present evidence that Struve possessed "anti-government material."

According to a complaint filed earlier this month, Struve "planned to use the items at some uncertain date in the future."

Two law-enforcement sources familiar with the case, but who spoke on condition of anonymity, used the term "Armageddon" to describe what Struve was apparently awaiting in stockpiling the weapons.

Agents have served four search warrants — three in Spokane and another in Lynnwood.

The Lynnwood shed was empty; however, agents recovered eight machine guns and additional grenade rounds in a search on a storage shed in Spokane.

The search of the Bellevue storage shed did not require a warrant because agents were given permission by a man who purchased the contents at an auction.

ATF Special Agent Heidi Wallace said much of the recovered ordnance was almost certainly stolen from the military because there is no other place to get it.

Woods said the investigation is continuing and that a grand-jury indictment is possible. So far, agents have questioned at least two others — including a man who rented the shed in Bellevue. No other arrests have been made.

Wallace, who was at Struve's court hearing Tuesday, said there was no evidence at this point that Struve was involved in domestic terrorism.

Struve first came to the ATF's attention in November, when the man who had purchased the shed's contents contacted the agency after he found it full of boxes of firearms, shells and other military-style hardware and wanted to know if the weapons were legal to keep.

The bureau sent Wallace to the buyer's garage, where he had stacked the contents from the storage unit. What Wallace found were "many boxes, plastic bins and ammunition containers."

The first box contained what appeared to be several machine guns. Likewise, the second box contained military-type firearms. In the third box, Wallace found "two grenades and other possible explosives."

Other agents were called, and what they found was startling — and worrisome.

"In all my years, I've never seen this sort of firepower in one place," said ATF Special Agent Nick Starcevic, the Seattle office's senior operations officer.

One box contained 54 M406 high-explosive grenade rounds — 40-millimeter shells that can be launched from a shoulder-fired weapon to distances of 300 yards or more, according to military specification.

Its explosion creates a "kill radius" of up to 16 feet from the point of impact and injuries dozens of yards beyond that.

Agents also found several other anti-personnel grenades, including a Korean War-era "Chicom" stick grenade.

In another box, agents found six blocks of C-4 plastic explosives.

Agents counted 32 apparent machine guns, including M-14s, M-16s, and several "Sten guns," a mass-produced submachine gun known for its high rate of fire — upward of 500 rounds per minute.

They also found nine silencers and the parts for several others, as well as thousands of rounds of ammunition and various other military hardware.

"All of the military explosive items seized are considered contraband and cannot be possessed by anyone other than the military," Wallace wrote in a search warrant. "The majority of the items seized appeared to be stolen military explosive materials."

Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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