RENO, Nev. — Sheriff's deputies in northeast Nevada are investigating whether an Elko County man arrested with a cache of weapons and explosive devices may have any ties to extremist or terrorist groups.
Thomas Mooney, 26, of Spring Creek appeared in Elko Justice Court on Friday afternoon on a 16-count criminal complaint stemming from his arrest last weekend when authorities seized firearms and alleged bomb-making materials from a home where he lived with his parents.
Justice of the Peace Mason Simons appointed the public defender's office to represent him and reduced his bail from $1.3 million to $385,000.
A sheriff's deputy who served in the U.S. Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan spotted what appeared to be improvised explosive devices while responding to a call early Saturday about a suicidal woman at the home in rural Spring Creek about 25 miles from Elko, Acting Undersheriff Kevin McKinney said.
They included a dozen "functional" pipe bombs, some with wicks and one with "multiple nails duct taped to the exterior ... consistent with improvised explosive devices intended for anti-personnel purposes," according to the probable cause filing.
Deputies and a bomb squad evacuated several neighboring homes before securing a search warrant, seizing firearms including an AK-47, bolt-action rifle, shotgun and ammunition, and detonating some of the explosives on site. They also found several military manuals, including U.S. Special Forces and Ranger handbooks explaining the use of improvised devices, military explosives and military ordnance, the Elko Daily Free Press first reported earlier this week.
Since his arrest, McKinney said local and federal authorities have been trying to determine what "his intentions were."
"We really haven't got any good answers. Friends and family are kind of circling the wagons," McKinney told The Associated Press. "We're trying to investigate whether he had any beefs with anybody, or whether he's part of an extremist group. It may be months before we have anything definite."
McKinney said they immediately contacted the FBI, which helped the sheriff's department, but he declined to provide details. "Any time you have a suspicion of possible — for lack of a better term — possible terrorists, it is better to include them (FBI)," he said.
Officials for the FBI and Justice Department declined to comment. Natalie Collins, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Las Vegas, said no federal charges are pending.
McKinney told reporters after the arrest that detectives recovered a number of items like those used in the Boston Marathon bombing, including duct tape, steel piping, fuses, ball bearings, BB pellets and chemicals.
"Multiple items matching those used in the construction of the functional explosive devices" were discovered, including ammonium nitrate and other chemicals the bomb squad "identified as being used in the manufacture of homemade explosives," according to Detective Nick Stake, who wrote the probable-cause report after Deputy Brian Shoaf detailed the discoveries.
Mooney was ordered back to the county jail on Friday, where he already has pending a 10-day suspended jail sentence in an unrelated case that likely will keep him incarcerated through next week. His criminal record includes a felony drug conviction in Arizona in 2009, obstructing a public officer in Elko in 2008 and various minor drug, alcohol and larceny charges.
Mooney's original bail was based on a probable-cause complaint citing 55 separate violations tied to each weapon or component of an explosive, multiplied by $25,000.
The 16-count complaint filed by Elko County District Attorney Mark Torvinen includes 12 counts of possession of an explosive or incendiary device, three counts of possession of a firearm by a person previously convicted of a felony offense and one count of possession of a component of explosive or incendiary device with the intent to manufacture.
A preliminary hearing has not yet been set.