South Carolina police find massive cache of more than 7,000 guns

Authorities confiscated enough weapons over the weekend to fill four tractor trailers. Police suspect that nearly all of the guns were stolen.

Five county sheriffs with over 120 years of collective law enforcement experience stood in a house outside Pageland, S.C., last Saturday and agreed that they had never seen anything like it.

Authorities say they have seized an illegal stash of thousands of guns, most of them stolen, from a house and warehouse in South Carolina. Authorities don’t have an exact number on the size of the stash – their best estimate is between 7,000 and 10,000 – but it was enough to fill four tractor trailers.

"There were so many guns we quit counting after a while," said Chesterfield County Sheriff Jay Brooks, according to the Charlotte Observer.

Deputies arrived at the home of Brent Nicholson on Friday afternoon to serve a subpoena for an unrelated drug case. They found chainsaws and a welder that had been reported stolen "in plain sight" on the front lawn. They returned later in the day with a search warrant from a judge and found "literally thousands of guns," Sheriff Brooks said.

Authorities have since found hundreds more guns at a nearby storage facility and a liquor store Nicholson runs with his parents.

In his 30 years in law enforcement, Brooks told the Observer the largest stash of illegal guns he'd ever investigated was 50, "and that was considered an arsenal."

Nicholson has a "lengthy record," according to Brooks. He had been arrested and charged with trafficking opium and heroin earlier in the week. He was arrested again on Saturday afternoon.

Among other assorted items at his home, deputies also found over 500 chainsaws; hunting crossbows; four-wheelers; and taxidermed deer, elk, and alligator heads. Deputies estimate that 99 percent of the goods are stolen, reported WBTV,  though Nicholson most likely bought most of the items from other thieves who burgle homes, hunting lodges, and cabins. Brooks said that many of the guns look like they’d been stored for years.

"There's no evidence that he even used them," said Brooks. "There's no evidence that he was selling them – he just wanted them."

The raid began on Friday night, according to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), and involved multiple agencies across jurisdictions, including the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Over 100 law enforcement officials were on the scene Saturday, and SLED plans to begin processing all the seized items on Monday. Brooks said their eventual goal will be to find the rightful owners, according to WBTV in Charlotte, North Carolina.

"No telling how many break-ins this will help wrap up," Brooks said."“This investigation is far from over." 

Neighbor Rusty Fender told the station he’d lived next to Nicholson his whole life and never suspected him of hoarding firearms.

"He's always been a good cat, but you know, people do things," Mr. Fender said. "I don't understand why he done the things he done, but I'm glad [the guns are] off the streets."

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.