A felon in California has been arrested and charged for possessing more than 500 guns.
Manuel Fernandez, 60, has been charged with illegally possessing the guns and related crimes after officers found 553 firearms in his home, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.
Sources familiar with the investigation said Fernandez was a firearms collector, not someone about to use the guns for violence, according to the Los Angeles Times. But while firearms possession is largely protected by the Second Amendment, exceptions exist for certain classes of people, including convicted felons.
Fernandez's arrest came after a tipster told police that Fernandez possessed “a large arsenal of firearms and that he was a convicted felon,” police said in a statement. After police obtained a search warrant for Fernandez’s house in Los Angeles County, a June 15 raid yielded 432 guns.
As a result of that raid, police discovered Fernandez may have stashed more guns at the home of a person described by police as “a female associate.” A subsequent search of the woman’s home revealed 30 additional firearms, police said.
The woman wasn't home when police arrived, and hasn't returned, but they've filed charges against her for prosecutors to consider, police said.
Police then obtained a third search warrant, and returned to Fernandez’s home. That follow-up search uncovered an additional 91 firearms in Fernandez’s possession. Police also seized computers, cell phones and hard drives because they believed a search of their data might reveal who sold Fernandez the guns.
California police and federal investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are tracing the purchase origins of the weapons, police said.
A total of 553 guns were ultimately seized. Photographs of the firearms released by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department show the haul included rifles, shotguns and pistols, some piled in the back of a pick-up truck, others laid out on the ground in neat rows.
“This case is a testament to the community’s involvement in reducing crime and taking guns out of the hands of criminals,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said in a statement. McDonnell credited the department’s “See Something, Say Something” campaign for the tip that lead to the seizures and Fernandez’s arrest.
Meanwhile, Fernandez was released on bond after his arraignment. He is next scheduled to appear in court July 9.
[Photo: Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department]