May 24, 2024

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One man, more than 200 guns, and a neighborhood on edge

The gunfire accelerated and suddenly, a round zinged in a high-pitched whine near them. The man shouted, and the woman screamed. “Where’s my kids?” She ran breathless into the house, where children’s voices rose in fear. “Are you guys OK? Stay inside!”

Neighbors record gunshots from R.I. man illegally stockpiling more than 200 guns
Shocking video from neighbors of man who was illegally stockpiling over 200 guns captures gunshots ripping through the woods.

Responding police officers had to duck for cover, until they could get Andruchuk to stop. The neighbors slept somewhere else that night. On Sunday, the father told an investigator with the US attorney’s office they were terrified of Andruchuk’s return.

Andruchuk, an occasional host of a local far-right YouTube talk show and failed Republican candidate for a House seat, is being held at the Wyatt Detention Facility on federal firearms charges, after federal authorities say they seized more than 200 firearms and “pounds” of ammunition from his home last week.

On Monday, US District Court Chief Judge John J. McConnell Jr. stayed an order from Magistrate Justice Patricia Sullivan that would have released Andruchuk immediately. A hearing on the US attorney’s request to revoke Andruchuk’s release is scheduled for Thursday at 9 a.m.

Ronald Andruchuk of Burrillville, R.I.Burrillville police

The 37-year-old man was arrested Thursday night after Burrillville police received yet another 911 call about gunfire. They had drawn a warrant to arrest Andruchuk for firing in a compact area on Wednesday.

When the police went to arrest Andruchuk on Thursday, he was wearing tactical gear, armed with four handguns and a combat knife, and appeared to be under the influence of drugs. Police found methamphetamine in a cargo pouch on his belt, along with ammunition.

Police found drugs and an unsecured arsenal of guns both inside and outside the house. Andruchuk was charged by federal authorities with possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, because of his alleged drug use; making false statements to purchase firearms; and causing false records to be kept by licensed firearms dealers. The combined statutory maximum penalty of imprisonment is 25 years.

Some of the firearms found in the basement of Ronald Andruchuk’s home in Burrillville, R.I.US District Court of Rhode Island

Sullivan had intended to let Andruchuk go back home last Friday, with some restrictions, until a prosecutor persuaded her to wait until she could file an appeal Monday — an unusual move for the US attorney’s office.

Assistant US Attorney Sandra Hebert told the judge that Andruchuk had been terrorizing the neighbors and she was worried about the community’s safety.

Federal public defender Kevin Fitzgerald said that Andruchuk’s storage of the firearms was irresponsible, but not a federal crime. He said the authorities had taken all of Andruchuk’s firearms, so there was no danger.

However, Hebert said there were so many guns strewn throughout the house — even a flamethrower sitting on a counter — the authorities weren’t sure they’d seized them all.

She was right.

Some of the firearms found in the basement of Ronald Andruchuk’s home in Burrillville, R.I. More guns were found strewn throughout the home and yard.US District Court of Rhode Island

On Sunday, Andruchuk’s wife, Jennifer, went to the Midstate Gun Company in Coventry to try to sell numerous gun bags and shooting supplies — and an employee discovered a Glock pistol in one of the bags. The gun shop contacted Burrillville police.

A police statement about the attempted sale at the gun shop, the neighbor’s cellphone video and statement, photos of the drugs, a few of the guns, and the flamethrower, were included in the appeal that Hebert filed in US District Court Monday morning. She said Andruchuk’s actions showed he posed a threat to his family and the community.

The gun shop’s discovery meant Andruchuk had accumulated at least 212 firearms within six months. There was no way that the police or probation could stop him from getting more guns, Hebert wrote, and his secretive behavior showed he’d be difficult to monitor and willing to ignore the law. He had surveillance cameras and motion detectors surrounding his property, alerting him to anyone approaching, such as police, she wrote.

“The defendant’s arrest may be a situation of crisis averted, but it is far from clear that the danger has been eliminated,” Hebert wrote.

Andruchuk’s gun-buying spree began last July, just two months after his family told Cranston police that his mental health appeared to be deteriorating.

Some of the firearms found in the basement of Ronald Andruchuk’s home in Burrillville, R.I.US District Court of Rhode Island

Agent Justin T. Delaney from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives began investigating Andruchuk, who had a history of drug use and had been buying up masses of guns over five months.

In December, authorities in Massachusetts launched an investigation after Andruchuk allegedly stashed two handguns and flashlights containing cocaine, oxycodone, and amphetamines in the ceiling of a men’s bathroom at the Tractor Supply Co. in Millbury, Mass. He was a regular visitor at the store, but dashed into the bathroom while a state trooper happened to be parked outside.

Two days later, he tried to buy guns to replace the ones he left at the store, according to the ATF.Andruchuk and his family had lived in Cranston for years — he’d run unsuccessfully for the city’s District 14 seat — when they bought the house in Burrillville outright for about $480,000. He appeared to have paid for it with earnings from cryptocurrency, according to the federal public defender.

In 2019, Burrillville had led the way for gun-rights activists by becoming the first town in Rhode Island to pass a resolution declaring it was a “Second Amendment Sanctuary City.”

The Andruchuks chose a house set back from the road on a long dirt driveway, an 11-acre property that had been advertised as touting its privacy.

And the gunfire began. The Burrillville police were called nine times since December about gunfire coming from Andruchuk’s house.

Some of the firearms found in the basement of Ronald Andruchuk’s home in Burrillville, R.I.US District Court of Rhode Island

When the authorities finally searched the property on Thursday, they were shocked at what they discovered — firearms on tables, on the floor, in cabinets, in open safes, the bathroom, the backyard, behind a clock, and in various containers. The weapons were strewn throughout the house that Andruchuk and his wife share with their 10-year-old son and twin 5-year-old boys.

“The accumulation of so many weapons by a poly-drug user in such a short period of time, coupled with reckless and inexplicable storage and use of those weapons, suggests that the defendant was spiraling out of control and highlights the danger posed by the defendant,” Hebert wrote.

A flamethrower among 211 firearms that Burrillville police and ATF agents seized from the home of Ronald A. Andruchuk in Burrillville, R.I.Court records

A spokeswoman at the state Department of Children, Youth, and Families said on Monday that Child Protective Services hadn’t been involved with the Andruchuk family before — but they were now.

Until his arrest, Andruchuk had been working full time as a counselor and case manager at the DaVinci Center in Providence, where executive director John DeLuca called him “a very dedicated professional.”

“He’s an ideal employee. He’s very dedicated, very compassionate, and very caring,” DeLuca said Monday.

Andruchuk was not a licensed social worker, according to the state Department of Health. He graduated from Rhode Island College in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and was currently enrolled in the master of social work program in the School of Social Work, said college spokesman John Taraborelli.

However, at the DaVinci Center, Andruchuk handled a caseload of about 25 to 30 people at a time, DeLuca said. “He’s a man of good character, an exceptional worker, and the people love him,” he said. “They come to him. He takes their problems, and he’s very patient, and he sticks to it. He sticks with people who are in dire need until their problems are resolved.”

DeLuca said the DaVinci Center hired Andruchuk after he lost his job with the Providence Public Schools at the start of the pandemic.

DeLuca said Andruchuk told him he had been a teacher at Central High School. Andruchuk was actually a per diem substitute teacher, who does not need a license, said Providence Schools spokesman Nicholas Domings. Andruchuk had worked for the school district as a substitute since November 2016, primarily at Central High, filling in whatever classes he was needed.

DeLuca said Andruchuk was well-liked at the DaVinci Center and although he knew the counselor had firearms, he’d respected that guns weren’t allowed at the center.

The executive director said he was shocked by the allegations against Andruchuk. He said Andruchuk had told him that he was worried about recklessness from his neighbors.

“I remember on one occasion he discussed with me that there were some gunshots coming from nearby properties,” DeLuca said. “He was concerned for his child.”

Amanda Milkovits can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMilkovits.