“The sheriff's office had received a report that a dark green passenger car reported to be occupied by two men and two women was observed leaving the area and these individuals may have possibly just committed a residential burglary. A short time later, a man … was observed by officers getting into a vehicle matching the description and was observed by deputies to be in possession of two samurai style swords, which officers suspected may have just been stolen from a nearby residence,” Ray said.
Ray said deputies followed the car and found the man and three others had attempted to burglarize a home but was scared away by the its owner.
Deputies also learned there were other burglaries in the area.
After obtaining a search warrant for the home, deputies found stolen property, items used to melt copper, methamphetamines, firearms, pipe bombs and bomb-making materials.
Ray said his office contacted the Garland Bomb Squad and the Tyler office of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives who responded to the scene.
“Upon arrival, the Garland Bomb Squad confirmed the presence of an active pipe bomb at the residence and contained and successfully destroyed the device. Along with the live pipe bomb, two other inert devices were also located at the residence,” he said.
Additionally, the Van Zandt County Fire Marshal's Office, the Garland Health and Safety Department were contacted to inspect chemical agents found on the property.
The Garland Health and Safety Department were able to take possession of the hazardous chemicals, including a large quantity of mercury.
As the investigation continued, new information led authorities to another home, where they found a large quantity of stolen merchandise, drugs and firearms, and Lindsey said it appeared to be a fencing operation where stolen property was exchanged for narcotics.
Multiple people were charged in connection with the investigation.
“This is an excellent example of what happens when area law enforcement agencies work well together,” Ray said. “Unfortunately, our county is infested with criminals who will not work and all they want to do is break into homes and steal property from law-abiding citizens and then trade it for dope. The men and women of the Van Zandt County Sheriff's Office are committed to protecting the property and the homes of our citizens. It is a difficult job because we are so outnumbered. It is rewarding, however, to work alongside the other law enforcement agencies in this county to combat these criminals and their illegal activities.”
Ray said deputies were on the site for more than 24 hours gathering stolen goods, which he said filled several trailers that included electronics, firearms, tools, farm machinery, trailers, welders and other equipment.
“We have had calls from various law enforcement agencies in the area asking us if we have this or that, and right now, we just don't know what all we have. We will be taking inventory of it over the next few days,” he said.
ATF Senior Resident Agent in Charge Clay Alexander said federal charges will not be sought in the case, because the devices found did not meet the federal guidelines as pertaining to the explosive devices. However, he added they can face charges relating to the devices under state laws.