2013-06-26 / Front Page

UPDATED: Mahopac Neighborhood Evacuated Following Discovery of Large Cache of Munitions

Military applications for many of the shells
Story and Photos by Eric Gross

The discovery of a Mahopac man shot to death inside his home at 303 East Lake Blvd. resulted in the evacuation of an entire neighborhood in the vicinity of the Mahopac Golf Club as police and munitions experts removed the potentially volatile armaments during a laborious 14-hour operation late Thursday and most of Friday.

Police were initially called to the residence at 11:15 p.m. Tuesday for an aid case and Mahopac FD Rescue Squad personnel found Jonathan Orser, 41, dead from a shotgun wound to the chest.

Carmel Police Chief Michael Johnson said Orser’s wife discovered her husband’s body when returning home from a social engagement.

Putnam Sheriff’s Department forensics experts were called to assist with the processing of the scene and Coroner Daniel Stephens pronounced Orser dead.

The chief said the shooting did not appear to be suspicious but the investigation was continuing: “We believe he shot himself while cleaning a weapon for an upcoming gun event,” said Johnson.

Johnson said during the query, police learned that Orser was a “gun aficionado who kept automatic weapons and explosives in his home.”

The chief summoned assistance from the Westchester County Bomb Squad and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition, more than 100 firearms, explosive powder, hand grenades along with a military ordnance stored in the basement of the run down home -- and an army tank located in the backyard -- were found.

On Friday morning at 5 a.m. the military 725-Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit based in Fort Drum arrived in Mahopac and removed the military weaponry before it was taken to West Point for disposal.

Police cordoned off the entire area after evacuating a number of homes as police and soldiers in camouflage gear removed wheelbarrows filled with potentially deadly ammunition.

Late Friday afternoon, Lt. Brian Karst provided an inventory of the weapons and ammunition seized that included 293 20-millimeter rounds; 21 76-millimeter rounds; 21 76-millimeter artillery shells; six improvised grenades; 1,400 rounds of 50-caliber armor piercing bullets. In addition numerous containers of explosive powder were seized along with two boxes of blasting caps; a quantity of thermite and one can of percussion caps.

“I hate what to think could have occurred if the materials got into the hands of the wrong person,” said a veteran cop patrolling the scene.

Two residents of the neighborhood who did not identify themselves said they rarely saw Orser around his house: “He would come and go and never caused any trouble,” said one man. Another neighbor recalled when Orser kept his old rusted tank on the front lawn: “It became quite a conversation piece,” he said.

Chief Johnson remembered asking Orser to move the tank to the rear of the house since motorists were stopping on East Lake Blvd. to view the unusual sight: “He did and we never had any problem with him.”

A family acquaintance said Orser was a Marine Corps reservist who “truly enjoyed being around weapons. He was a survivalist who attended many gun shows and was a firearms expert.”

The massive police presence departed the normally quiet neighborhood late Friday afternoon leaving many questions still to be answered.

Also assisting at one of the county’s most bizarre emergency calls in decades were Putnam Commissioner of Emergency Services Adam Stiebeling, Deputy Emergency Services Coordinator James Ciulla as well as members of the Putnam County and Mahopac FD Fire Police teams.

The investigation continues.

 

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