Authorities seized a private arsenal from inside a dead man's central Modesto home Wednesday after they discovered 38 homemade grenades, at least a half-dozen pistols, a dozen rifles, six mortars and two cannon rounds.
The Stanislaus County sheriff's bomb squad removed the weapons and explosives from the home of Richard Owens, 53, in the 1400 block of Glenwood Court, just west of Tully Road between Briggsmore and Orangeburg avenues.
Authorities found Owens dead in his home May 4. Friends reported he lived alone and no one had seen or heard from him for some time, said deputy Royjindar Singh, a sheriff's spokesman.
There were no indications that anyone else was involved in the death. Singh said coroner officials are investigating Owens' death as a suicide, but the cause of death had not been determined pending toxicology results.
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Coroner officials sealed the house until Wednesday morning, when a county public administrator and deputy coroner returned with Owens' mother to sort through the contents.
They soon called for a locksmith to open a safe in the house. About 10 a.m., Singh said, the locksmith drilled a hole in the 6-foot-tall safe and opened it. They didn't expect to find the grenades.
"It was surprising, not just to our staff, but also surprising to the family," Singh said. "He had a fairly large arsenal."
He said officials were trying to determine the type of rifles that were found, but some were assault weapons.
Sheriff's officials eventually found the mortar shells and the howitzer cannon rounds, but the ordnance appeared to be inert. Bomb squad members said it appeared the grenades were made inside the home, since they found small amounts of gunpowder in the house.
According to sheriff's officials, Owens worked as a nurse and did not serve in the military.
His house sits near the center of a small cul-de-sac. Several neighbors gathered along Glenwood Drive across the street from the entrance to the street to watch the bomb squad work.
Brick wall replaced wooden fence
Some of the neighbors said they became suspicious of Owens after he replaced a wooden fence with a brick wall that encircled the sides and back of his house. But the neighbors said Owens never threatened anyone in the neighborhood or displayed violent tendencies.
After the grenades were discovered, Modesto police arrived to secure the home and the cul-de-sac. The bomb squad arrived about noon to examine the explosives.
About 3:45 p.m., officers asked the neighbors to get inside their homes or move down the street as a precaution as two bomb squad members wearing protective suits walked into the house to remove the explosives. No one was evacuated.
About 30 minutes later, the bomb squad loaded the explosives into a protective trailer. They will be destroyed using other explosives. No injuries were reported.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2394.