BY RUTH BROWN Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Agents in full black armor and helmets with rifles raised marched Tuesday morning into an Oildale neighborhood to serve search warrants that resulted in the discovery of hundreds of weapons there and at a third location in San Bernadino County.
California Department of Justice agents began the bust around 11 a.m. at 329 Beardsley Ave., said Jessie Bower, 74, who lives three houses down.
Bower said the block between Oildale Drive and Plymouth Avenue was full of police cars, most of which were unmarked.
During the next several hours, agents searched a second home at 309 Beardsley and about 5 p.m. called in the Kern County Sheriff’s bomb squad. It was unclear Tuesday night whether any explosive devices were found at either home.
Between the two Oildale locations and the third site in Apple Valley, more than 300 firearms, including rifles, handguns and assault weapons, were seized. Agents also found two World War II-era hand grenades and one mortar round.
Alvin Seal, 67, of Oildale, and Erik Stoffel, 39, of Apple Valley, were taken into custody in San Bernadino County on suspicion of illegal trafficking of firearms. At the time of their arrests, a DOJ spokeswoman said the pair were in possession of an additional 50 firearms.
Both were booked into San Bernardino County Jail.
Late Tuesday afternoon, more than a dozen state and county law enforcement officers remained milling about the unkempt yard of the 1,179-square-foot home at 329 Beardsley, which displayed two small American flags. They had to pick their way around garbage, lawn furniture, a motorcycle and several potted plants.
DOJ agents laid a blue tarp down in the home’s driveway. Then came the guns. Officials brought out rifle after rifle from the house, laying them in neat rows across the tarp.
Officers continued cataloguing the guns Tuesday night as a small white dog roamed the yard. As one officer described each weapon, measured its barrel length and read its serial number out, a second officer compiled the information. Then the first officer loaded each weapon into a black SUV.
The street where the busts occurred is filled predominantly with small homes and an apartment building.
Art Lopez lives next door to 329 Beardsley. He said was forced to wait outside his home for an hour before agents allowed him back inside.
Lopez said crime in the neighborhood is common.
“There’s always cops around here and something happening,” he said.
Nancy Dias lives with her fiance and 1-year-old daughter in the nearby apartment building.
While holding her daughter and watching the agents, she said she wasn’t surprised by the show of force and stayed inside during most of the commotion.
“It’s just not the safest neighborhood to be out in anyway,” Dias said.