SEQUIM — Area law enforcement authorities hope to wrap up an ongoing investigation next week into the mailing of parts — from China to a Sequim residence — that could have turned two semiautomatic handguns into “extremely dangerous” automatic weapons, a Clallam County Sheriff’s Office spokesman said.
Brian King, Clallam County Sheriff’s Office chief criminal deputy, said Thursday that the Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Team (OPNET) has been investigating the transaction with assistance from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), formerly federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which alerted local authorities to the delivery.
No arrests have been made, said King, commander of the OPNET unit.
The Sequim case is part of a nationwide investigation by multiple jurisdictions into conversion pieces being mailed to U.S. addresses from a province in China, King said.
“These parts are capable of producing, of altering a firearm, into making an extremely dangerous weapon,” King said.
The two sets of parts were designed to convert two Glock handguns into automatic weapons, he said.
The gun kits, and their possession, are illegal under both state and federal law.
King said the parts that were delivered to a residence in the 300 block of West Fir Street across from Helen Haller Elementary School were not bump stocks or parts intended to build bump stocks.
The school was briefly under modified lockdown status when a search warrant was executed at the address early afternoon March 28, King said.
The residence is located between the Sequim unit of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula and Sequim High School.
An adult male resident of the house, who is cooperating with authorities, is being questioned and evidence, including his computer, is being examined, King said Thursday.
The man is a gun owner who “did possess at the time a firearm that was capable of being altered with the part” that was mailed to the residence March 28, King said.
King, who would not identify the man, said a family, not including school-age children, live at the home and that the parts were acquired online.
“There is a potential we will have a referral by next week,” King said of potential criminal charges in the case.
“We have other investigative steps we need to take before we make any recommendation to either federal prosecutors or state prosecutors.”
HSI alerted Clallam County authorities that the kits were arriving via mail to the residence, King said.
The OPNET task force includes an HSI agent.
The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are not involved in the investigation.
King said OPNET has no information that other conversion kits have been delivered in Clallam County.
King said possession of the parts, which allow the machine-gun-like firing of a stream of bullets with one trigger pull rather than one pull per shot, is illegal under state law.
The state law prohibits illegal firearms and parts including machine guns, parts intended solely for use in machine guns, or parts used “in converting a weapon into a machine gun.”
Possession of the parts is illegal under federal law that makes it unlawful to posses a “fully automatic firearm or any part designed or intended exclusively for use in such weapon.”
The warrant was served on the residence at 1:30 p.m. March 28 at a time of day when it was thought there would be the fewest people around, said Staff Sgt. Sean Madison of the Sequim Police Department.
“[Principal Rebecca Stanton] decided in an abundance of caution to restrict everyone’s movements,” Madison said.
During the lockdown, students and teachers remained in their classrooms, he said.
The lockdown lasted about 30 minutes, a school official said Thursday.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mathew Nash, reporter with the Sequim Gazette — part of the Olympic Peninsula News Group — contributed to this story.