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Alabama ‘Militia’ Raided for Stockpiling Weapons

Federal agents raided a ragtag collection group of tent dwellers calling themselves the “Alabama Free Militia” and arrested them for conspiring to make a firearm.

Alabama Militia Raymond Kirk Dillard<br />
This photo made available by the Shelby County (Ala.,) Sheriff's office shows Raymond Kirk Dillard, 46, one of six men arrested by Federal and state agents who seized an arsenal of homemade hand grenades and firearms in raids Thursday, April 26, 2007. The men, members of the self-styled<br />
This photo made available by the Shelby County (Ala.,) Sheriff's office shows Raymond Kirk Dillard, 46, one of six men arrested by Federal and state agents who seized an arsenal of homemade hand grenades and firearms in raids Thursday, April 26, 2007. The men, members of the self-styled
Raids that resulted in the arrests of six alleged militia members and the seizure of hundreds of hand grenades and bullets were “much ado about nothing,” a defense lawyer said Friday. A cache of ammunition that was confiscated — 2,500 rounds — wasn’t that large, and the scores of homemade hand grenades that agents seized could be made with powder from fireworks and components readily available in military surplus stores, attorney Scott Boudreaux said.

Even prosecutors say the ragtag group called the Alabama Free Militia had no intended target and was simply stockpiling munitions, said Boudreaux, who plans to meet this weekend with his client, Raymond Kirk Dillard, 46, of Collinsville, a supposed major in the paramilitary group. “Frankly, I don’t think that’s a big deal,” said Boudreaux. “It seems to be much ado about nothing.”

Jim Cavanaugh, regional director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said the raids eliminated a huge threat. The Anti-Defamation League, which tracks extremist organizations, said the weapons seizure was the largest in the South in years. “The arrests and the seizure of such an enormous arsenal are a compelling reminder that extremist groups continue to operate in otherwise peaceful communities filled with law-abiding citizens,” said Bill Nigut of Atlanta, ADL regional director.

Five men were jailed without bond on federal charges of conspiring to make a firearm after the raids, conducted early Thursday in four Alabama counties. They included Dillard; Adam Lynn Cunningham, 41; Bonnell Hughes, 57; Randall Garrett Cole, 22; and James Ray McElroy, 20. A sixth alleged member, 30-year-old Michael Wayne Bobo, was charged with being a drug user in possession of a firearm.

[...]

Dillard lived in a small camper without electricity or running water in northeast Alabama, and neighbors said McElroy lived in a makeshift tent nearby. Bobo lived with his parents in an upscale subdivision in suburban Birmingham.

A court document indicates Dillard, unknowingly met with an ATF informant at a flea market in Collinsville about four months ago, told him he was organizing a militia and later accepted him into the group as a sergeant major. The informant was at the home of Cole, an alleged militia lieutenant, about two months ago when he saw grenades, according to the document, a sworn statement by ATF agent Adam Nesmith. Investigators found more weapons as they monitored the group through the informant and with video and audio surveillance, Nesmith said.

During the raid, agents recovered 130 hand grenades, a grenade launcher, about 70 hand grenades rigged to be fired from a rifle, a machine gun, a short-barrel shotgun, 2,500 rounds of ammunition, explosives components, stolen fireworks and other items.

U.S. Attorney Alice Martin said the fireworks used to make the grenades were commercial grade, not the type sold in retail stores in Alabama. “Even to possess these fireworks without a license is a felony in Alabama,” she said.

So, basically, we have a collection of six yahoos who can’t afford decent housing–or even real tents–but have some weapons. They have no target in mind nor is there any particular suspicion that they are a threat to anybody. Yet, we’re sending federal agents in after them? After months of video surveillance?

For what? Why is it a crime to conspire to make firearms? Or to possess fireworks without a license?

Strangely, the commentary I’ve seen on this (here, here, and here) all refers to these guys as “terrorists.” Why? It’s some incredibly bad reporting on the part of AP’s Jay Reeves if there’s evidence of criminal intent and he doesn’t mention it.

Another AP account, published by CNN without byline, has this priceless quote:

“They just have a beef with the government, and they stockpile munitions,” U.S. Attorney Alice Martin said at a news conference in Fort Payne.

That describes about a third of the country, lady. The 1st and 2nd Amendments, respectively, protect those freedoms. It’s only a crime if they plan to use those guns against their fellow citizens.

That story also notes that “Federal authorities said [Dillard] was a federal fugitive wanted in an ATF case out of Mobile from the mid-1990s.” Obviously, if that’s true, he should have been arrested. I’m not sure that required a swarm of police vehicles, five bomb teams, and closing down the neighborhood school for a day. What’s with the BATF and their need for melodrama?

via Memeorandum

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Arcs says:

    It’s only a crime if they plan to use those guns against their fellow citizens.

    If they were indeed in possession of a machine gun without the appropriate licensing or the short-barrelled shotgun (if too short) or the explosives components with no licensing or stolen commercial fireworks, I’d differ on your crime statement.

    As to being terrorists or belonging to a terrorist organization, I think I’d have to say no as long as they were not conspiring to commit an offensive action of some sort.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4

  2. Mark says:

    Dillard’s beard makes him look like one of those Confederate generals back in the Civil War days…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  3. Anderson says:

    Sorry, JJ — “hand grenades”? That’s unacceptable. Good work nailing these guys before they put any of their toys to use.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 16

  4. I don’t think you can get any more disingenuous than calling a bomb a “firearm.” Under the law, a bomb is not a firearm, and it most certainly is against the law, both federal and state, to make one.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 10

  5. James Joyner says:

    I don’t think you can get any more disingenuous than calling a bomb a “firearm.”

    The story says nothing about bombs. They’re charged with “conspiracy to make a firearm.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  6. cirby says:

    Remember all the hoo-haw about how the Branch Davidians were “stockpiling firearms?”

    Well, aside from the fact that much of their “stockpile” was, in fact, stock for their business of selling guns and ammo at firearms shows, it turned out that they had less firearms per adult, than the average adult in Texas.

    (Of course, the ATF screwed the pooch in a lot of respects – they misidentified legal weapons as being illegal, and made a lot of claims about things that never actuall existed.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  7. spencer says:

    They are not Arabs so they are not a threat, right?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 5

  8. James Joyner says:

    They are not Arabs so they are not a threat, right?

    If they were Arabs being harassed by the authorities for months and then arrested with fanfare despite any lack of evidence of criminal intent, I suspect the Left would be reacting differently.

    As P.J. O’Rourke quipped years ago re: the Branch Davidians, “Religious nuts with guns? Hell, this nation was founded by religious nuts with guns!”

    It may well turn out that these guys were dangerous and that there’s more to this than advertised. The AP story has me scratching my head, though.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  9. Tano says:

    As P.J. O’Rourke quipped years ago re: the Branch Davidians, “Religious nuts with guns? Hell, this nation was founded by religious nuts with guns!”

    I don’t imagine anyone would chuckle at this except those who really wish it were true.

    Of course, neither the Jeffersons of that time, nor the Franklins, nor the Sons of Liberty were, by any strech of the imagination, religous nuts. The truth would be closer to the contrary.

    “Strangely, the commentary I’ve seen on this all refers to these guys as “terrorists.” ”

    Yeah. They should be called “suspected terrorists”. Then we could disappear ‘em into Gitmo, and you would never have even heard of ‘em.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

  10. The ABC News and Birmingham News stories paint a different picture: (from the BHM News)

    Simultaneous raids carried out in four Alabama counties Thursday turned up truckloads of explosives and weapons

    Plus the ABC story noted the seizure of 120 marijuana plants. One of the guys was in his adoptive parents $600,000 home in Trusville, so not all of them were living in the wild.

    Still, I have done no additional reading of the story and the AP stuff quoted above by James raised questions, to be sure.

    I blogging the story here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  11. [...] here’s…uh…”major” ray dillard. i’m guessing ol’ ray has at least a genius i.q. http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/ar…piling_weapons/ Dillard lived in a small camper without electricity or running water in northeast Alabama, and neighbors said McElroy lived in a makeshift tent nearby. Bobo lived with his parents in an upscale subdivision in suburban Birmingham. so…none of them had jobs? A court document indicates Dillard, unknowingly met with an ATF informant at a flea market in Collinsville about four months ago, told him he was organizing a militia and later accepted him into the group as a sergeant major. damn! he by-passed private AND corporal! i’ll bet if i gave them a playh…er…clubhouse they would let me join as a captain!!! [...]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  12. Orcinus says:

    [...] to leading right-wing pundits might be terrorists — well hell, that’s a hero. 12:23 AM Spotlight postCount(‘6041299189930340823′);   [...]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2