N.J. troopers discover huge weapons cache

By Allison Steele and Jan Hefler
Philadelphia Inquirer

GLOUCESTER COUNTY, N.J. — New Jersey state police say they discovered a massive arsenal of weapons and ammunition at the Gloucester County home of a former police officer who allegedly pulled a gun on two troopers.

Brian Hinkle, 59, was arrested Monday on charges of aggravated assault after officers went to his home in Franklin Township to investigate a burglary in the area. When they asked him to go to the police station for questioning, authorities said, Hinkle ran into his house and brandished a gun.

Police who over the next three days searched Hinkle's house and other buildings on his property say they found 259 firearms and nearly a half-million rounds of ammunition.

Hinkle also had a live grenade and several other hazardous items, including a canister of tear gas, authorities said. Officers said they discovered weapons stored in a bunker that Hinkle apparently built out of an old septic tank and some carpeting.

"This is more ammunition than a gun store would have," said Detective Sgt. Mike Peterson, one of the state police officers whom Hinkle allegedly threatened.

Hinkle's collection could be the largest stockpile of weapons state police have ever uncovered in an investigation, Sgt. Steve Jones said.

It is against the law to own a live grenade as well as a few other items found on the property. It was not yet known whether any of Hinkle's guns were illegally obtained, police said. He may face additional charges depending on the outcome of an investigation.

Police have not offered any theories as to why Hinkle, a Vineland police officer in the 1980s, amassed the weapons.

"That's a question we would like to know the answer to," Jones said. "It's not illegal to possess guns. It's not illegal to dig a hole in your property. But there's odd behavior here that makes us have reason to believe there's illegal activity."

Hinkle's small, two-story house sits at the end of a dirt driveway off Rosemont Avenue, a rural road with lots of open space and mostly new houses that border Newfield. His four-acre property, which is cluttered with car parts, a boat and other items, has several trailers and storage sheds. Police said they found weapons in all of the buildings.

Hinkle's lot is mostly blocked from view by trees along Rosemont Avenue. A neighbor said yesterday she had not known that Hinkle kept so much on his property until this week's police activity prompted her to take a look.

Hinkle has no known criminal record, said Jones, who did not know how Hinkle had been employed since leaving the Vineland Police Department. An officer in that department who did not want to give his name said that Hinkle was not a problem there and that he left under ordinary circumstances.

The chain of events that brought officers to Hinkle's house began last week, when burglars twice struck a farmhouse in Upper Pittsgrove, Salem County.

On Jan. 22, the second time the two burglars hit the house, the owner caught them in the act and called authorities.

Troopers found them in their alleged getaway car and arrested the driver, Anthony D'Allessandro, 42, of Williamstown, on charges of burglary. D'Allessandro's passenger opened the door and ran off, Jones said. The suspect, Peter Monteleone Jr., 44, of Folsom, is still sought on burglary charges.

State police put out bulletins seeking information about Monteleone. A trucking company responded, saying it had recently arranged to drop off a trailer for Monteleone on Hinkle's property. The officers went there Monday and found Hinkle outside.

Jones would not comment on the conversation that officers had with Hinkle, but during the exchange they determined they needed to take him in for questioning. He agreed to go and asked permission to go inside for a jacket.

Jones said that Hinkle then slammed the door and that the officers found him holding a handgun in the kitchen, where he was disarmed and arrested.

He was charged with aggravated assault on a police officer and released on bail. Police are investigating the connection between Hinkle and Monteleone.

Hinkle, who has not stayed in his house since his arrest, was expected to be allowed back into it last night, Jones said.

Yesterday afternoon, state troopers were still milling around the area, and a police trailer was set up near Hinkle's house. Clearing out the weapons took most of three days, Jones said. Officers used a forklift to remove the ammunition, which was stored on a dozen pallets. The bomb squad was called in to detonate the grenade, and officers destroyed some old ammunition that appeared hazardous.

News of Hinkle's arsenal was a shock to his neighbors, who said he always kept to himself. Franklin Township Clerk Carolyn Toy, who lives four houses away, said he lived alone with his dog, a retriever.

"He was always very pleasant to me," she said. "He'd plow our driveway when there's snow and it was free."

Marge Pfrommer, deputy mayor of Franklin Township, said residents were not too shaken by the week's events. Pfrommer, who has lived in Franklin for 50 years, said she had never heard any complaints about Hinkle. It's a quiet neighborhood, she said.

"Sometimes you can't know what's going on with residents and what they have behind closed doors," she said.

Copyright 2009 Philadelphia Inquirer

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