Police arrested a Ketchikan man Friday on weapons and drug charges. Authorities say they also found bomb-making materials as part of what appeared to be a mini-arsenal in his home.
When police arrived at Herman Brown III’s door with a search warrant, they were following up on a report of an illegal handgun. Brown’s a felon, and felons can’t have pistols.
What Ketchikan Police’s Andy Berntson says they found during the Jan. 24 search, though, was a small arsenal: a semi-automatic rifle with thousands of rounds of ammunition, plus bomb-making materials.
“Both chemicals and components, as well as devices, that appeared to be in certain phases of construction into explosive devices,” he said.
And a handgun — with an attachment that increased its capacity to 50 rounds.
Berntson says they also found more than half a pound of marijuana parceled out into one-ounce bags and some shipping envelopes. Police say that’s evidence he intended to sell it.
“You know, drugs, guns and explosive devices — that’s not a combination we like seeing,” he said.
Berntson says, fortunately, the devices weren’t fully assembled.
“It appears that they were in different stages of production, and so, all the components were together. There were, like, grenade casings as well as pipe bomb-type material,” he said.
Specifically, he allegedly had “empty grenades with fuses, he had all purpose cement, ziploc bag with bolt, washers and nails, mortar/pestle, five pounds of suspected explosive,” according to prosecutor Timothy McGillicuddy.
McGillicuddy also listed a number of other chemicals and materials often used in bomb-making: potassium perchlorate, aluminum powder, 99.5 percent pure sulfur, copper oxide, cardboard fuses, PVC pipes and some unidentified chemicals.
What did Brown plan to use the devices for? That’s not clear. But McGillicuddy pointed to violent online postings from Brown.
“The hashtag that was actually posted by Mr. Brown was #BlueLivesDontMatter, along with #BlueLivesSplatter,” he said in a follow-up interview Friday.
In addition to the nine millimeter handgun, authorities say had an AR-15 rifle with 2,700 rounds of ammunition and a shotgun with more than 100 rounds, though that’s not illegal — felons can legally possess long guns in Alaska.
Berntson says the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was called in to assist.
ATF spokesman Jason Chudy says his agency is providing its expertise.
“We sent one of our certified explosives specialists down there to support that, and we’ve been providing information to Ketchikan police on that,” he said in a Thursday phone interview.
Brown does have a criminal history. Alaska State troopers arrested him in 2015. He was accused of threatening troopers with what appeared to be a homemade explosive device. But they didn’t find a bomb.
Marijuana is legal in the state of Alaska. But unlicensed sales are illegal.
In his first appearance before a Juneau magistrate, Brown told the judge that he had “no hatred in his heart” and didn’t want to harm anyone. He pleaded not guilty Thursday.
He’s held on $75,000 bail at Ketchikan Correctional Center. He’s due back in court March 19 for the firearms and drug charges. Ketchikan police say they’re still investigating the suspected explosives. Prosecutors said Thursday that more state — and possibly federal — charges may be forthcoming.