Man with weapons arrested
NORCO – A man whose house was found to have a million-plus rounds of ammunition among other illegal items has been arrested. Thomas McKiernan, 62, was arrested Friday afternoon for possession of assault weapons, illegal ammunition and explosives, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department officials said. McKiernan was booked into the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside with bail set at $100,000. It was not known Saturday if McKiernan posted bail. The arrest at 12:35 p.m. came after McKiernan’s release from psychiatric evaluation at Riverside County Regional Medical Center Emergency Treatment Services. McKiernan had scuffled with Norco firefighters Thursday while they were trying to extinguish a fire at his house in the 1800 block of Pali Drive. After the fire was put out, authorities discovered the cache of ammunition and gun powder in the garage, along with a tunnel about 10 feet deep and more than 25 feet long under the house, officials said. Norco Fire Department Battalion Chief Ron Knueven said Saturday the fire is believed to have started in the attic above the kitchen area, but no exact location has been determined. More than 1 million rounds of ammunition, 125 guns and rifles and about 75 pounds of black ammunition powder were retrieved during a multi-agency investigation. The tunnel was found to contain barrels of water, cooking oil and rice, as well as other non-perishable foods. Riverside County sheriff’s Sgt. Dennis Gutierrez said that due to the stockpiled goods and the man-made tunnel under the house, McKiernan “appeared to be a survivalist.” Many neighbors and friends of McKiernan have defended his affinity for guns and ammunition – calling him a collector and hobbyist. Residents along Pali Drive have overwhelmingly described McKiernan as a quiet and considerate neighbor who always provided help when asked, enjoyed working in the yard and cared deeply about his family. “He’s ex-Army. I think they’re making it bigger than it is,” neighbor “Tiny” Bosch said. “He was a quiet, good neighbor, but that was his fetish \.” Gutierrez said the rifles and handguns were not the problem. It was the possession of five semi-automatic weapons and ammunition larger than 60 caliber that is illegal, he said. While it is fine to have one pound of black gun powder, McKiernan had more than 20 pounds. More than 40 pounds of smokeless powder was found at the house, and thus McKiernan’s cache surpassed the legal limit of 20 pounds, Gutierrez said. Sheriff`s officials have said the amount of ammunition retrieved from the house was likely the largest in Riverside County. The city of Norco released the house, roofless and unstable in its foundation due to the tunnel, back into the control of McKiernan’s family members. [email protected] (909) 483-9347160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!