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Raids net 6 arrests, gun arsenal

By Jay Reeves
Associated Press Writer

COLLINSVILLE — Six men were arrested and an arsenal of homemade hand grenades and firearms was seized Thursday as federal and state agents said a small anti-government militia was broken up in a series of raids in northeast Alabama.

Federal authorities said the men, members of the self-styled “Alabama Free Militia,” had no apparent plans to use the weapons, but the leader was described as a federal fugitive.

“They just have a beef with the government and they stockpile munitions,” U.S. Attorney Alice Martin said at a news conference in Fort Payne.

Five of the men — Raymond Kirk Dillard, 46, Collinsville; Adam Lynn Cunningham, 41, Collinsville; Bonnell Hughes, 57, Crossville; Randall Garrett Cole, 22, Gadsden; and James Ray McElroy, 20, Collinsville — were charged with conspiracy to make a firearm.

The sixth, Michael Wayne Bobo, 30, Trussville, was charged with being a drug user in possession of a firearm.

They made an initial federal court appearance in Birmingham on Thursday afternoon and were held pending a bond hearing Tuesday.

Dillard, who was known by the alias Jeff Osborne while living in a camper at Collinsville, was described as holding the rank of major in the militia, apparently the leader. In court, the bearded Dillard, with close-cropped hair, wore military boots and camouflage pants. Others wore jeans and T-shirts.

They gave no statements as a magistrate read the charges to them.

Jim Cavanaugh, regional head of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said during the raids agents recovered 130 hand grenades, a grenade launcher, about 70 hand grenades rigged to be fired from a rifle, a machine gun, a short-barrel shotgun, two silencers, numerous other firearms, 2,500 rounds of ammunitions, explosives components and stolen fireworks.

He said the grenades were of high quality, made from high-grade fireworks and metal components, including grenade bodies. Two had been booby-trapped and had to be disarmed during the raids, authorities said.

“There was no plot to use this on anybody,” Cavanaugh said. But the potential for mayhem disturbed law enforcement officers.

“They fancy themselves with rank. They arm themselves with all this ordnance. Obviously they operate from the standpoint that they might need to use it,” Cavanaugh said.

At Collinsville, neighbors and friends of Dillard, whom they knew as Jeff Osborne, said he had been living there about two years. He lives in a camper painted with green camouflage design strewn with military items, including canteens, first aid kits, canvas or nylon sacks and military garb.

Joanne Gunnin, who owns the farmland where the camper is located, said that he expressed hatred for the government and illegal immigrants.

“He told a 16-year-old boy that he had to make up his mind which side he was going to be on, Americans or Mexicans,” Gunnin said.

Federal authorities said he was a federal fugitive wanted in an ATF case out of Mobile from the mid-1990s.

Down a dirt path, about 40 yards from the ramshackle camper, there is a makeshift tent that’s nothing more than a tarp held up by ropes and poles. Inside is a military-style cot and gear including packages of soup. Federal authorities said McElroy lived there.

The camper is about 20 yards from a railroad bed. Beside the track, there is a Confederate flag and a couple of kerosene lanterns held up by poles.

Another raid was at a house off U.S. 11 about a quarter-mile from Collinsville School. Officials at the school said they decided to cancel classes for about 650 students from grades kindergarten through 12 because of the swarm of police vehicles.

“They had the road blocked to the school, and children were sitting on buses,” said assistant superintendent Gary Talley. “The sheriff called the superintendent about 7 a.m. to let him know what was going on, and the decision was made to call off school.”

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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