Weapons found in Torrance raid By Larry Altman, Staff Writer Article Launched: 02/29/2008 11:51:57 PM PST A cache of weapons - machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, assault rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition - were found at a Torrance house where police arrested four people, officers said Friday. The discovery Thursday of 21 rifles and 14 handguns - many of them loaded - occurred during a narcotics investigation that has escalated into a more serious case, including the potential that residents of the home were involved in terrorism, police said. "It's being looked at from all angles," Torrance police Officer Dave Crespin said. The homeowner, Russell Powell, 35, denied Friday that he was involved in terrorism or any other crimes. Powell, who is free on $45,000 bail, said he was a gun collector, the rocket-propelled grenade launchers were inactive props, and all of his weapons are legally registered. He denied any involvement in crime or terrorism. "They are full of (expletive)," Powell said. "The cops will say anything to look good. I'm a collector of interesting weapons. None of it is illegal. You think they'd let me out if it was?" Torrance community lead officers, those who investigate neighborhood problems, began watching Powell's two-story house in the 19700 block of Tomlee Avenue following complaints from neighbors about suspected drug activities there. During the recent investigation, police pulled over suspected drug users leaving the home, Crespin said. Police served a search warrant at the house Thursday afternoon, finding "evidence of heavy methamphetamine use in every room," Crespin said. In addition, rifles and handguns were strewed about the residence. Unlike other homes where police have seized guns during raids, the weapons were not stowed away in closets or lockers. Instead, they were lying about every room, police said. "We knew he had some weapons but not the extent of it," one undercover investigator said. Crespin said some of the weapons were strategically placed, including a 7.62-caliber military-grade machine gun that pointed from the kitchen toward the front door. A tripod for the weapon sat on a landing on the home's indoor stairs, giving a user higher ground to use it in a standoff. "We are very thankful we put it to an end now," Crespin said. "A SWAT team would have a difficult time bringing it to an end." The weapons included a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, a crossbow, an Uzi, a Tech 9, numerous high-capacity magazines, and a machine gun that propels ball-bearings with carbon dioxide. Police agreed that the majority of the weapons were legally registered but said the fact that they were loaded and kept close to the narcotics made them illegal. "The weapons and narcotics together pose a huge threat to the community," Crespin said. "We are talking weapons that will easily penetrate walls." Officers also found baseball caps for police agencies, including the FBI, fake badges from the Hawthorne Police and Los Angeles County Sheriff's departments, police batons, a red-and-blue light, and other equipment, raising the specter that someone could impersonate a police officer, Crespin said. Police also found numerous books on subjects such as methamphetamine manufacturing, bomb making, Satanism, and how to take revenge. Titles included "The Anarchist Cookbook," which contains instructions for making explosives, and "How to Open Handcuffs Without a Key." Several photographs showed Powell and a man dressed as a priest. Each was simulating suicide, with blood smeared on the wall as if they had shot themselves. By Friday, investigators from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, the Los Angeles Police Department, Department of Justice, the FBI and its Joint Terrorism Task Force were looking into the case. Powell was arrested on suspicion of possession of narcotics and possession of loaded firearms in conjunction with narcotics. Also arrested on suspicion of possession of narcotics were Adam Ali, 45, of Lawndale; Misty Ann Smith, 41, of Torrance; and Sabrina Cox, 42, of Torrance. Calling the women his girlfriends, Powell said he became interested in collecting weapons because he comes from a military family. He said asthma kept him from joining the Marines. Powell said the police were completely wrong to arrest him, and added that the suicide photographs were taken for a friend's CD cover. The friend wanted artwork to show a priest blowing his head off, he said. Powell, wearing a "coroner" shirt purchased from the county Coroner's Office, said he spent time Friday cleaning up his house from the raid. "It's embarrassing in front of my neighbors," he said.