PAGELAND — What began as the routine serving of a subpoena sparked national headlines after sheriff’s deputies hauled an arsenal of up to 10,000 guns away from a Chesterfield County man’s home.
Sheriff Jay Brooks and his deputies — joined by federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents, authorities from Darlington and Lancaster counties and deputies from Anson County, North Carolina — have been on the clock since Friday securing and cataloging the weapons.
Brooks said deputies went to 51-year-old Brent Nicholson’s home near Pageland to serve a family court subpoena on Friday when they noticed what they believe were stolen items on the porch. Officers had taken a report for the stolen items a few days before.
At that time they decided to back out of the yard, get a search warrant and return to the home.
“The first door they opened, literally 50 guns fell out,” Brooks said. “And that is when I called in everybody.”
On Tuesday, deputies continued to unload the four tractor-trailers filled with the seized weapons. They were being placed in plastic barrels and carted off to waiting men and women who recorded the serial numbers so the guns could be entered into a national database.
Sheriff’s spokesman Capt. Daniel Scott said it will be weeks before deputies are able to finish that process. Brooks initially estimated the haul at roughly 5,000 guns, but Scott said Tuesday that the tally would likely be between 5,000 and 10,000.
“We have multi long-hand rifles, shotguns, handguns,” Scott said. “We also have all kinds of taxidermy. We also (have) cow gates, deer feeders, deer stands and generators.”
Authorities haven’t found evidence to indicate the hoard of weapons was being stored for a violent attack.
“We don’t believe he is any kind of militia or anything,” Scott said. “He his parents own a liquor store and whatever somebody would trade, he would buy it, just give them cash for it. He would take it and stockpile it. We found it everywhere.”
As of Tuesday night, Nicholson was charged with a single count of receiving stolen property valued at more than $10,000. Deputies said more charges are forthcoming.
The sheriff’s office has also searched properties occupied by Nicholson’s family members, who had not been charged with any crimes Tuesday.
A magistrate denied bond for Nicholson on Sunday and he is being held in the Chesterfield County Detention Center pending a bond hearing. The receiving stolen property charge has a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Nicholson was arrested Oct. 22 in Union County, North Carolina, where authorities say they found drugs and more than 50 guns.
He was charged with felony possession of stolen firearms, felony trafficking in opium or heroin, possession of drug paraphernalia, misdemeanor carrying a concealed gun and misdemeanor surrender of surety in North Carolina.
The massive haul of firearms made nationwide news, with stories appearing on CNN, Fox News and CBS and in The Washington Post, New York Daily News and Christian Science Monitor. A Google News search showed more than 300 news outlets had published details of the arrest online.
Reach Maria D. Grandy at 843-537-5261.