January 24, 2009 in City

Agents seize weapons cache

Man facing federal charges
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Courtesy U.S. District Court records photo

These weapons were among those found in Ronald L. Struve’s former locker in Bellevue. More were found in space he rented in Spokane.Courtesy U.S. District Court records
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

An arsenal of weapons, including seven machine guns, was seized by federal agents in Spokane after the arrest of a man now charged in Western Washington with illegally possessing an impressive array of firearms and explosives.

The military weaponry discovered in a storage locker in Bellevue rented by Ronald L. Struve included 7.5 pounds of the highly dangerous C-4 plastic explosives, federal authorities confirmed Friday. Additional weapons were later found in Spokane.

“That’s like finding the unicorn for us,” one federal source said.

Struve, a 65-year-old, single legal stenographer, was arrested at his apartment at 3001 E. 53rd Ave. on Jan. 6 by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives following an investigation that began in Western Washington.

Agents found two parrots living in squalid conditions in Struve’s apartment; the birds were turned over to an animal control agency. A third parrot was found dead in the freezer. Agents also seized a variety of antigovernment material contained in pamphlets and on compact discs.

The agents also searched a stored vehicle and two rental units at 2814 N. Napa St. in Spokane leased by Struve, court records obtained Friday show. At the storage units, agents seized 21 items, including seven machine guns, a Russian sniper rifle, an AK-47 assault rifle, and a host of machine gun parts that are illegal to own without proper federal licenses.

Agents also seized 33 other legal firearms for safekeeping from the north Spokane location, court documents say.

Struve was ordered held without bond as a danger to the community and a flight risk after an appearance Friday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Alice Theiler in Seattle. He is only charged with federal crimes in the Western District of Washington but could face additional firearms charges in Eastern Washington.

“The size and scope of this arsenal is troubling,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas M. Woods told the judge, the Associated Press reported.

The federal prosecutor said Struve stored his arsenal “in complete disregard for public safety.”

When contacted Friday, Woods wouldn’t say how long authorities believe Struve lived in Spokane.

Struve’s defense attorney, Jay Stansell, told the court in Seattle his client is “nothing more than a loner-type person with some unusual political ideas.”

Stansell told the court that Struve had owned the weapons for decades without harming anyone, the AP reported. “You can’t shoot 43 machine guns at the same time,” Stansell said.

Authorities were still attempting to learn where the suspect obtained many of the illegal items, including the C-4 and other military explosives, that they believe he had possessed for several years.

ATF agents in Seattle were called Nov. 13 after a man not identified in court documents purchased the contents of a public storage locker unit on Northup Way in Bellevue. The contents were sold at auction after the leasor became delinquent in rental payments.

The successful bidder transported the weapons cache home before realizing it was illegal to possess many of the items and called the ATF.

Items subsequently seized by federal agents in Seattle included 37 machines guns, two grenade launchers, 54 grenades and the C-4 explosive, court documents say.

A subsequent investigation, including the examination of telephone records, led ATF agents to Struve in Spokane. He was arrested without incident.

“He told (an ATF agent) that he did not plan to sell the items from the storage unit, but rather planned to use the items at some uncertain date in the future,” ATF agent David M. Cline said in a court affidavit.

Bill Morlin can be reached at (509) 459-5444 or by e-mail at billm@spokesman.com.


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