Questions About the Arrested Firefighter
by Ari Armstrong, November 30, 2005
Dear Mr. McPhee and and Ms. Caldwell,
Thank you for your interesting articles in The Denver Post [on November 23 and 30] about the Denver firefighter arrested for allegedly selling fully-automatic guns to an FBI informant, a violation of federal law.
There are a few matters you may be able to clear up for your readers in future articles.
1. Was there anything illegal about the firefigher's reported attempt to purchase "'specific communications systems' and night-vision goggles from a Colorado Springs military base?" If so, what, specifically, was the nature of the illegality? It seems odd that somebody would attempt to obtain equipment illegally from a military base, which obviously has tight security and oversight. Or was the attempted purchase legal? And how did this matter come to the attention of the sheriff's office? Did somebody from the military base contact local law enforcement? McPhee's article states that, according to the sheriff's office, the firefighter "allegedly had obtained Chinese military equipment." What are we talking about here? Backpacks? Binoculars? Communications gear? Again, is there anything potentially illegal associated with this? Caldwell's article states that authorities also seized "three tear-gas grenades" from the firefighter's home. Were these functional, or were they nonfunctioning antiques? Where did he allegedly get them, and might there be any criminal charges associated with them?
2. Who were the informants used by the sheriff's office and the FBI? Were they paid to be informants? Were they facing their own criminal charges? Do they have criminal backgrounds, or is their credibility in doubt for some other reason? Did the FBI's informant actively encourage the alleged illegal activity? What were the cover stories of the informants?
3. Finally, if the alleged "domestic terrorist organization" is "unknown," as Caldwell quotes in her article, then how did sheriff's officials know about it? Is there any real evidence that the firefighter was part of any such organization, or that such an organization exists? Of course, if such an organization exists, it may be the subject of continuing investigations, and so you may not be able to get additional information from official sources. However, if such an organization exists, I have to wonder why the FBI would arrest a single player and tip off the rest of the organization. McPhee reports that the firefighter "became suspicious" about a third transaction with the FBI's informant. But why would the FBI draw the firefighter into multiple felonious (alleged) transactions, causing him to become suspicious, if there's a dangerous organization to investigate? Does the fact that the Joint Terrorism Task Force led the investigation have something to do with the nature of the allegations?
What's clear is that, if the firefighter did what he is alleged to have done, then he's probably looking at a lot of hard time. But there are a number of important matters that are not yet remotely clear. I hope you can delve into these matters in future articles.
Update: In a late November 30 article for the Rocky Mountain News, Karen Abbot writes, "Denver firefighter Stan Taran Ford, accused of selling illegal machine guns to FBI informants, has no connection to any terrorist group and is angry at government officials who have indicated he does, the firefighter's lawyer said today in federal court. 'There has been some insinuation in an affidavit in support of the complaint in this case that the defendant has ties to some unknown domestic terrorist organization,' attorney William Hood said. 'I just want the court and everybody in the courtroom to understand that Mr. Ford is not associated with any terrorist organization and bitterly resents the assertion that he is,' Hood told Colorado U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Watanabe. Hood said what he has seen so far of the government's evidence in the case shows 'absolutely no evidence to corroborate' the allegation of terrorist connections." We shall see whether additional evidence comes to light.