Tipster leads California authorities to felon’s stash of 553 guns, police say

A tip called in to Los Angeles County authorities led investigators to seize a total of 553 guns from a convicted felon last week, officials said.

Manuel Fernandez, 60, of Agua Dulce, was arrested Thursday on charges of being a felon in possession of firearms, possession of an assault rifle, being a felon in possession of ammunition and possession of large-capacity magazines, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department officials. He was released on bond the following day.

Sheriff's Department officials said in a news release Monday that deputies at the department's Palmdale station received a tip about a felon in possession of a "large arsenal of firearms." Detectives, along with agents from the California Department of Justice, obtained a search warrant for Fernandez's home in Agua Dulce.

Agua Dulce is located about 20 miles northeast of Santa Clarita, near Angeles National Forest.

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Investigators found a total of 432 guns during the execution of the first search warrant at Fernandez's home, the news release said. That search led them to a second home in Agua Dulce connected to Fernandez.

A total of 30 guns were found at that home, which belongs to a woman described by authorities as a female associate of Fernandez’s. The woman, who was not home Monday and has not returned since the search, is expected to face charges.

A second warrant served at Fernandez’s home led investigators to find another 91 weapons hidden in the house, the news release said.

"Detectives also seized computers, cellphones and hard drives from the residence believed to be involved in the illicit purchase of firearms by the suspect," the news release said.

A photo released by the Sheriff’s Department shows rifles and other weapons piled into the bed of a Ford F-150 pickup truck. Other pictures show the massive cache of weapons laid out on a patio at the station.

Credit: Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

Credit: Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

The number of weapons seized was so large that investigators brought in agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to assist in tracing the purchase history of the guns, authorities said.

"This case is a testament to the community's involvement in reducing crime and taking guns out of the hands of criminals," Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said in a statement.

McDonnell said the response by his personnel, as well as state and federal officials, shows the positive result of the Sheriff’s Department’s “See Something, Say Something” campaign.

"We are proud of the relationship we have built in the Antelope Valley area as we continue to build trust with the communities we serve," the sheriff said.

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