ATF Search - Coerced Consent
Man agrees to search at gunpoint
by Jason Mundy
At approximately 9:30 on a quiet Sunday morning last month, Bargerville resident Craig Storer woke to someone pounding so hard on his front door that it was "literally shaking the trailer." Running in his pajamas to look out the window, Mr. Storer saw a Deputy Sheriff's truck and a metallic silver vehicle parked in his driveway. Unknown to Mr. Storer, outside a swarm of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) agents and Sublette County Sheriff's deputies had been positioned at various locations around his bright blue trailer. Law enforcement officers were also positioned on Highway 191, leading toward the frontage road where Mr. Storer's trailer is located.
ATF agents and Sheriff's deputies were there to search Mr. Storer's trailer
for illegal firearms. According to Sheriff's Detective, Paul Raftery, the Sheriff's
office had information that Mr. Storer possessed automatic weapons and explosives.
Because the Sheriff's office has no jurisdiction to enforce laws pertaining
to illegal firearms, the ATF was contacted. The ATF began its own investigation
of Mr. Storer, said Mr. Raftery.
The ATF and the Sheriff's deputies arrived at Mr. Storer's trailer without a search warrant.
According to Mr. Raftery, the ATF had been working with the Assistant U.S.
Attorney and was in the process of getting a warrant, but it was the decision
of Resident Agent in Charge, Gilbert Salinas of the ATF office in Cheyenne,
to go ahead with the planned raid, without one.
Jeans still in his hand, Mr. Storer opened the door of the trailer leading outside to a small front porch. What he saw was the muzzle of a pistol pointing directly at his head. His first thought was to back up.
"I thought I was being robbed," said Mr. Storer.
Officers began shouting orders for Mr. Storer to turn around. As he did,
he caught sight of two other men outside a small window pointing pistols in
his direction. According to Mr. Storer, none of the men who had guns pointed
at him identified themselves as law enforcement officers.
One of the ATF agents ordered Mr. Storer to stand face against a nearby wall with his hands on his head, and then proceeded to search him.
"At the time I still didn't realize that this was ATF," he said.
The agent then asked who was in the house and Mr. Storer called out to his girlfriend, who was in the back bedroom.
"They told me they were there to search the house. I asked then if they had a warrant," said Mr. Storer. They did not. An ATF agent instead presented Mr. Storer with a consent form to sign allowing the ATF agents and the Sheriff's deputies to search his trailer.
Mr. Storer, still in his pajamas and his hands on his head, surrounded by
armed officers, was given an option. He and his girlfriend, who was wearing
a t-shirt and little else, could wait outside in the cold until the ATF could
obtain a warrant on a Sunday morning, or he could just sign the consent.
Mr. Storer was furious that both law enforcement agencies arrived to search his trailer with no warrant, based on information provided to the ATF and deputies by informants. He said if they ATF was keeping surveillance on him and had received warnings about supposed illegal weapons, they should have gotten a warrant.
"This sort of think happened in Nazi Germany," said Mr. Storer.
" My girlfriend was freaking out. I'm thinking do I sign or don't I? I don't owe them anything. I haven't done anything wrong."
Mr. Storer, still at gunpoint, decided to sign the consent form.
Once they had consent, agents began asking Mr. Storer if he had any illegal weapons. They wanted to know what guns he had, how many guns he had, and where they were located. They asked him if he had or had made any silencers. For the next twenty minutes ATF agents and Sheriff's deputies searched the trailer. They rummaged through boxes, examined gun cases and rifled through shelves looking for illegal firearms and parts kits that could convert guns from semi-automatic to fully automatic.
What they found were a couple of shotguns, two semi-automatic assault rifles ( a replica of an AK-47 and an M-16) a 9mm Berreta pistol, a .50 caliber single-shot, long-range rifle and a few other standard field rifles. All the guns found were legal. However, the .50 caliber did raise some eyebrows with ATF agents, said Mr. Storer.
"I've shot rounds through a car hood from a mile away with this gun," said Mr. Storer, as he displayed the rifle. The length of the gun is about 3 feet long, painted camouflage and looks menacing. Mr. Storer said there is a movement by the US government to classify the gun as a destructive weapon, which could make it illegal to purchase, even as a parts kit.
But the ATF did not confiscate the gun, which they had the legal authority to do under new anti-terrorism laws passed after Sept. 11. Mr. Storer readily admitted that he had bought the gun as a parts kit from a dealer, who he thought, had been arrested earlier for having 32 unregistered machine guns.
As the search continued, one sheriff's deputy emerged from the back bedroom and walked into where Mr. Storer, his girlfriend and a few agents and deputies were sitting, carrying a small bottle containing a white powder.
"They actually asked me if it was Anthrax," said Mr. Storer. Instead
of Anthrax, the powder was cretonne, a dietary supplement for weightlifters,
said Mr. Storer. The bottle and powder were taken and have not been returned
by Sheriff's Deputies," he said.
After the search was conducted, which did not turn up anything illegal, both agencies vacated the trailer, leaving Mr. Storer angered and dumbfounded at what just happened.
"One of the agents told me as he was leaving that it must of been one
of my doper friends that turned me in. That really pissed me off."
Mr. Storer has no prior convictions in Wyoming and said that his record is completely clean, except for a DUI a couple of years ago. He emphasized how frightening it was that a government agency could barge in his home and intimidate him into signing a consent to search form simply on the claims of an informant.
"My home is my sovereignty. My entire soul, everything I have in this
world was bared to Sublette County and the Federal Government, legally,"
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