A West Virginia man was indicted on Tuesday for selling machine gun conversion devices to hundreds of people, including anti-government extremists in the Boogaloo movement and the person accused of shooting and killing two US forces operatives. order this summer in California, prosecutors said.
The man, Timothy John Watson, 30, of Ranson, W.Va., is accused of selling devices which, when attached to weapons like an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, allow them to fire automatically more than one shot with a single pull of the shutter button, prosecutors said.
Mr Watson sold the devices online, prosecutors said, and, in order to disguise their nature, described them as “wall hangers” meant to hold “keys, cords, hats, jackets, coats and other small objects ”.
According to a federal criminal complaint, Watson and his clients used coded language in emails and social media posts, indicating that the devices were intended to turn weapons into machine guns.
Among Mr Watson’s clients was Steven Carrillo of Winters, Calif., Prosecutors said. Mr Carrillo bought a “portable wall mount – simple” from Mr Watson’s website in January, they said. In May, authorities said, Carrillo shot two security officers in federal court in Oakland, killing one; in June, authorities said, he shot two Santa Cruz County sheriff’s deputies, killing one.
An AR-15 rifle recovered from the Santa Cruz scene was linked to the two shots, federal officials said. The weapon appeared “to be a privately manufactured (PMF) firearm without manufacturer markings,” federal officials said in the criminal complaint against Mr. Carrillo.
Shawn R. McDermott, an attorney for Mr. Watson, did not immediately respond to a phone message Tuesday evening.
But Mr McDermott told the United States District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia in a pre-trial motion that “there is no evidence that the portable wall mount was used in the shooting. or in a weapon ”by Mr. Carrillo.
Mr McDermott also said his client would “reject any ideology based on violence.”
“If Mr. Watson’s real purpose was to put illegal guns into the hands of extremists, he would not have made this information readily identifiable,” McDermott wrote. “He would have just taken his business to the dark web, which would make it much more difficult for anyone to follow him.”
In a statement announcing the indictment of Mr. Watson, Bill Powell, the US attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia, said the defendant “appears to have provided hundreds of people with these conversion devices, some in people who want to make Americans. harm. “
“Federal law is very specific about these types of devices,” added Powell, “and public safety from extremists is one of our top priorities.
Prosecutors said Mr Watson was specifically looking for members of the Boogaloo movement – a loose affiliation of anti-government extremists, some of whom clashed fiercely with law enforcement and peaceful protesters during George Floyd’s protests – for to be his clients.
In March, his site announced that he would donate 10 percent of his profits that month to a GoFundMe page for Duncan Lemp, who has been described as a “martyr” of the movement after being fatally shot at his home in Potomac. , in Maryland. , by local police officers that month, prosecutors said.
In addition, a member of the Boogaloo movement told federal officials he learned of the existence of Mr Watson’s site after seeing it advertised on Boogaloo Facebook groups, prosecutors said.
Mr. Watson faces four federal charges: conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States, unlawfully manufacturing machine guns, illegal possession and transfer of machine guns, and possession of a non-silencing gun. checked in.
If found guilty, he faces up to five years in prison for conspiracy and up to 10 years in prison on each of the other three counts, prosecutors said. Mr. Watson was arrested in September and remains in detention.