JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. - Federal agents arrested a 35-year-old Morrison man, who they said told an undercover agent he was willing to trade homemade fragmentation bombs with a 20-meter "kill zone" for cocaine.
Federal ATF agents, Denver Police Department and Jefferson County Sheriff's Office bomb squads and the Colorado Springs Regional Explosives Unit executed a search warrant at the home of Richard Lawrence Sandberg in 4600 block of South Swadley Way near Morrison in Jefferson County.
Sandberg was arrested and initially charged with possession of a firearm/destructive device that was not registered in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Records.
“I’m just shocked,” said one neighbor, who asked not to be identified.
“It’s just so scary,” said neighbor Michelle Chalupa. “My kids have talked to him before. He seemed like a very nice guy.”
Sandberg and his wife Cassandra live in a house next to the neighborhood park.
“My kids have played on his fence before,” Chalupa said. “To know that he had those types of (explosives) is unnerving.”
Deputies blocked South Swadley Way for several hours until the last bomb squad truck pulled out around 3:30 p.m.
The investigation began on Jan. 18 when an ATF agent was contacted by a Denver police detective who said a reliable informant knew a man named Richard "Rick" Sandberg who had several firearms, homemade pipe bombs and military hand grenades and "Sandberg wanted to trade these items for cocaine," the affidavit said.
The informant told police he'd been to Sandberg's home recently and saw "numerous firearms and hand grenades," the affidavit said.
An undercover ATF agent called Sandberg and arranged to meet him at his home to work out a "deal" on trading narcotics for explosives, the affidavit said.
Sandberg told the undercover agent he is former "Special Ops Recon SS Marine Corps," referring to a Marine serving in a special operations/reconnaissance unit, the affidavit said.
At times during the fast-moving undercover investigation recounted by the affidavit, Sandberg veered into political rants about proposals by President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats to ban assault weapons and high-capacity bullet magazines.
A “Fire Obama” sign is posted in a second floor window of Sandberg’s home, and a red U.S. Marines flag was posted in the front yard, but was removed during the investigation.
“I’m a veteran,” said neighbor Douglas McNett. “It’s a little disappointing that there was a Marine flag in his yard. I struggle with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) from being in Afghanistan and so my hope is that this is not something from that.”
"Sandberg claimed a right-wing declaration of independence/constitutionalist political manifesto and made disparaging remarks about the current administration and them wanting to take away his guns," the affidavit said.
He also vowed to kill law enforcement officers -- especially ATF agents -- if they came to his home to take his guns, the affidavit said. Sandberg showed the undercover agent how he'd built bullet-proof barricades, booby-trapped with a firebomb to be ready if federal agents came.
"Sandberg stated that he was ready and willing to die," the affidavit said.
The agent told Sandberg he needed something to protect an out building.
Sandberg immediately volunteered that he had incendiary or "napalm" explosives, but advised the agent not to use those because they "burn too hot -- at 3,800 to 5,000 degrees," the affidavit said.
The agent said he needed "frags" -- or fragmentation devices that unleash shrapnel -- and Sandberg said he had military-issued "M67" grenades and "homemade" explosives, the affidavit said.
Referring to homemade bombs, Sandberg said he "builds his own s---t," the affidavit said. The man added that none of his weaponry comes from a gun store, and he crafts the bombs with material he gets at Home Depot.
"Sandberg said that he specialized in demolition and these (devices) make a big boom and…and said that he has 11 homemade "frags" and the kill zone would be 20 meters and the hurt zone is 60 meters," the affidavit said. "Sandberg asked (the agent) if he needed remote detonation and, if so, the M67s are too large," the affidavit said.
Instead, Sandberg said he would give (the agent) a "device with a 60-second fuse and it will contain 60 stainless steel BB's and this will do a lot of damage and hurt someone," the affidavit said.
Sandberg told the agent "the chemicals are over-the-counter, but you need to know how to put them together."
He added that the devices are “not firecrackers, not things to play with" and they are "life or death," the affidavit said.
The man said he had 18 of the "federal issue" M67 grenades and he could sell the undercover agent five grenades for $1,500, the affidavit said.
The undercover agent met Sandberg at his home on Tuesday.
Sandberg again claimed to be a former "United States Marine, Force Recon" demotion expert and he said the "U.S. government paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars to learn how to build bombs and kill people," the affidavit said.
The man said he served in war zones in Iraq, Somalia, Africa and Pakistan.
"Sandberg also claimed to have made claymore and IED (improvised explosive devices) using glass shrapnel while deployed in a war zone, so that the shrapnel could not be detected inside the bodies of the enemy," the affidavit said. He showed the agent a spiral-bound notebook with written instructions and manuals on how to build bombs and bomb making materials.
Sandberg warned if law enforcement and "specifically ATF" agents came inside his house to take his guns, "it would be a bad day for them and lots of them would die," the affidavit said.
Sandberg told (the ATF agent) "that no ATF or (law enforcement) SWAT team was capable of taking him out of his house, that it would take a U.S. Marine SF Recon team to take him out, because they were the only ones capable," the affidavit said.
Sandberg repeatedly told the undercover agent he had an arsenal of guns, including an AR-15 assault rifle and a .50-caliber rifle, suggesting that one or more of these guns had been illegally converted to a machine gun.
"Sandberg also stated that he was in possession of several thousand rounds of ammunition and also in possession of uranium-tipped, armor-piercing ammunition," the affidavit said.
Sandberg showed the agent a bullet-proof panel attached to an iron plate and a 5-foot-square piece of plywood, saying that he would use it to fortify his windows and barricade himself if law enforcement officers came to his house, the affidavit said.
He also showed the agent an iron-plated door barricade with "gun turret/cut outs" holes, saying he would use it to "barricade the door to his residence and attach an incendiary device to (it) if LE (law enforcement) came to his residence," the affidavit said.
Sandberg eventually gave the agent three homemade explosives, the affidavit said.
The undercover agent offered to pay for the explosives, but Sandberg said he preferred to trade them for cocaine, the affidavit said.
ATF explosives experts later analyzed the three devices and found they each contained explosive powder, a fuse and stainless steel ball bearings, the affidavit said.
Authorities removed the explosives and took them away for safe detonation.
They also cataloged the chemicals and guns removed from the house.
When asked if the homemade explosives and chemicals were unstable, or capable of blowing up the house, ATF Special Agent Brad Beyersdorf said, “There’s always a risk with explosive devices. It’s speculation to say what kind of danger or what kind of effects it would have had.”
Neighbors confirmed to 7NEWS that the man captured on Google Street View in the driveway of the house is Sandberg.