Flames shot into the air as New Jersey State Police destroyed gunpowder found, they say, with a haul so huge they needed forklifts and a box truck to take it all away.
State police seized what they think is the largest cache of firearms and ammunition most of them have ever seen.
It was found in a house, two trailers and even an underground bunker on a piece of property in rural Franklin Twp., Gloucester County, State Police said.
Investigators say they discovered more than 250 guns, a hand grenade and close to 500,000 rounds of ammunition.
“Gun shops don’t have half-a-million rounds,” said Detective Sgt. Mike Peterson with N.J. State Police.
State police say an investigation into two recent burglaries in Salem County led them to the property on Monday.
That’s when police say they encountered the homeowner, 59-year-old Brian Hinkel, a former Vineland Police Officer.
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“He tried to slam the door on our detectives and we were able to follow him into the house. He ran into the kitchen and grabbed a loaded handgun off the kitchen counter and our detectives were able to disarm him at that point and place him under arrest,” explained Sgt. Stephen Jones with the State Police.
Hinkel was charged with assaulting a police officer.
Authorities say several guns were visible in the house. After getting a warrant, a full-fledged search began on Tuesday and continued into Thursday.
Neighbor Antoinette Ragone, who saw what police hauled away, was stunned. “I’m shocked and I’m upset because I live here, I have a 14-year-old son, 15-year-old nephew with me.”
State police say the evidence they found connected Hinkel to two men charged with the burglaries. One of those men has been arrested. The other, Peter Monteleone, Jr., is still on the loose according to investigators.
Why would a former police officer have an arsenal like that? “We do believe he had a firearms purchase permit and he was legally able to possess firearms, but whether or not the firearms themselves are legal is a different question,” said Sgt. Jones.
Hinkel was free on Thursday after posting 10-thousand dollars bail. Authorities say the process of sorting and identifying everything they found could take days.