SEATTLE — A Spokane man who kept a massive arsenal of Vietnam-era machine guns, grenades and plastic explosives in a Bellevue storage locker is merely a loner with some unusual political views, his lawyer said Friday.
Nevertheless, U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Alice Theiler ordered Ronald Struve detained pending trial on gun and explosives charges. She determined that the 65-year-old from Spokane posed a risk of flight and a danger to the community.
Struve stored 37 machine guns, two grenade launchers, 54 grenades and C-4 plastic explosives in the storage locker in Bellevue, east of Seattle. After he failed to pay his storage fees, someone else bought the contents of his locker at auction and alerted federal agents. With some difficulty, they traced the weapons to Struve and arrested him Jan. 7.
“The size and scope of this arsenal is troubling,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas M. Woods told the judge. But even more so, he added, was that “the defendant stored these items in complete disregard for public safety.”
One of the grenades had dud-fired, Woods noted, making it possible that it could have exploded if mishandled. And a fire at the storage facility would have proved disastrous.
Agents found more machine guns in other storage lockers Struve rented, and he had some anti-government materials, such as a bumper sticker that said “End the Fed” — an apparent reference to the Federal Reserve. Woods acknowledged that none of the materials reviewed so far advocated violence against any government.
Struve’s lawyer, Jay Stansell, said Struve works as a court reporter, is not a Vietnam veteran and has never been arrested.
While the arsenal is a “concern,” Stansell said, “You can’t shoot 43 machine guns at the same time.” He noted that Struve had owned the weapons for decades without harming anyone. He may have been keeping them in reserve in case of Armageddon.
“There’s no evidence that he’s anything more than a loner-type person with some unusual political ideas,” Stansell told the judge. “These are not beliefs that I support, but I will say here in open court that I’ve expressed many anti-government ideas over the past eight years.”
The judge denied Stansell’s request to release Struve. She noted that he stored the items in a manner where they could have fallen into the wrong hands, and that thankfully the person who bought the locker’s contents came forward.
The judge also said Struve poses a flight risk, citing his alleged efforts to mask where he lived. He registered cars to a mailbox business, did not list his address on his storage locker application, and kept his utilities in the name of his dead former roommate.
Struve’s next court appearance is set for Feb. 3. If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison for each firearm and explosive illegally possessed.
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