Brent Nicholson is credited by some for keeping some 5,000 guns off the streets, but others are just startled by the ease of hoarding stolen firearms. Police confiscated the weapon cache in late October while conducting a search of his home in Pageland, South Carolina. Although they’re still cataloging, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is saying it’s probably the largest ever.
It’s been six weeks since Brent Nicholson was arrested. Estimates on the size of the cache ranged from 3,800 to 10,000 in the media, but authorities now put the figure at about 5,000. The 51-year-old man is being held on charges of possession of stolen property after a lengthy investigation.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, in mid-October, Nicholson faced charges of opium and heroin trafficking. When police arrived at his home to issue a subpoena, they spotted stolen welding equipment and chainsaws.
The authorities obtained a search warrant, and discovered much more than they expected.
According to Reuters, the guns were everywhere. They were piled high in the living room, bedrooms, hallway, even on kitchen counters and table tops. The hoard extended to the garage, where police opened the door only to have more guns spilling out.
Brent Nicholson owned a liquor store, which was also filled with hidden firearms according to further investigations.
The haul took four 40-foot semi-trucks to remove. There are no signs that Nicholson was actively selling or trafficking the firearms, but many were stolen, likely from local homes and hunting clubs.
As local Sheriff Jay Brooks explained, “this has completely changed our definition of an a**-load of guns.”
“I don’t know if there’s ever been (a seizure) this big anywhere before.”
— W. Clayton (@weciv01) December 4, 2015
Additionally, the authorities found allegedly stolen 4-wheelers, ammunition, air compressors, crossbows, and tools. The sheriff was eventually forced to employ inmate labor to help with the confiscation, bringing his department under scrutiny.
According to WSOC-TV, Detention Center Administrator Sheila Gillespie wrote a letter to the Attorney General (AG), complaining that the authorities used the inmates on private property and allowed them to handle guns.
Sheriff Brooks admitted that six inmates helped, but that they never handled guns, and it was no longer private property at that point in the investigation. The AG is reviewing the complaint.
— TecFeed (@FollowTechnos) December 3, 2015
As for Brent Nicholson, he and his wife Sharon are being held for possession of stolen property. Brent was denied bail, but his wife was released.
Nicholson was reportedly well-known for his gun hoarding in the small town of Pageland, where guns are a staple of the local culture according to Reuters.
Al Padgett, 68, says he’s known Nicholson’s family his whole life, explaining that the gun collection was a family affair.
“Everybody knew he’d buy guns; his father bought ’em, his grandfather bought ’em. He collected ’em, hoarded ’em, but I never knew him to sell a gun. Not one. He did everyone a favor keeping ’em off the street.”
Still, the sheriff claims the weapon cache created an outlet for firearm thieves to cash-out. South Carolina is known to law enforcement as the starting point of the “iron pipeline” – a route where illegal weapons travel up to New Jersey, New York and other northern states.
With the memory of the San Bernardino shooting still fresh, Brent Nicholson’s case has implications for the heated debate on gun control. That one man could obtain that many guns, so many illegally from untraceable sources, might be cited as an example of dangerous excess and another sign that more regulation is necessary.
[Photo by David McNew/Getty Images]