When South Carolina police showed up outside Brent Nicholson’s house in Pageland, S.C., on Friday, the idea was to arrest him on charges of trafficking opium and heroin.
After noticing a stolen chain saw and a welder in Nicholson’s front yard, they retrieved a search warrant and returned to make an unexpected discovery on the 51-year-old’s property that continues to shock investigators, according to the Charlotte Observer.
“There’s like 150 chain saws, probably 250 to 300 taxidermy mounts, somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000 stolen weapons,” Chesterfield County Sheriff Jay Brooks told Fox News, describing the massive haul of stolen goods that police say they uncovered.
Almost all hunting rifles and shotguns, Nicholson’s personal armory was found inside his home and in a nearby storage facility and included enough weapons and ammunition to fill multiple tractor-trailers, Brooks told CBS affiliate WBTV.
Brooks told the Observer that, in his 30-year law enforcement career, the largest weapons cache he’d ever encountered topped out at around 50 guns.
“And that was considered an arsenal,” he said.
The mass of stolen goods included more than just guns, according to the Observer:
Deputies also found hunting crossbows; ammunition; taxidermed deer, elk and alligator heads; hunting mounts; tools; air compressors and more than 500 chainsaws – most of it, Brooks said, stolen. There was “so much stuff” that by 3 p.m. Saturday authorities had filled four 40-foot tractor-trailers and taken it to an armory near the sheriff’s office in Chesterfield where the thousands of items will be processed.
More than 100 law enforcement officials descended on Nicholson’s residence this weekend and, beginning Monday, 20 investigators will begin the painstaking process of reviewing the evidence “piece by piece,” according to WBTV.
Authorities estimate that almost all of the guns are stolen and they hope to return the property to their rightful owners, the station reported. Brooks said he expects that investigators will link the stolen property to a number of unsolved area break-ins. Investigators are also looking into whether Nicholson may have had help getting the weapons and whether he was personally stealing the property or buying the guns from others.
And authorities need to answer another question about Nicholson’s stash: What was he doing with so many weapons?
Brooks told WBTV that Nicholson appears to be a gun hoarder, one who was uniquely successful.
“There’s no evidence that he even used them,” he told the Observer. “There’s no evidence that he was selling them — he just wanted them. His house looked like that “Hoarders” program on TV.”
Rusty Fender, who lives next door to Nicholson, told WBTV that his neighbor has “always been a good cat,” but the unexpected weapons stash frightens him.
“What was you thinking?” he said. “Why was you collecting that many firearms? What was you planning on doing with them? I mean was you planning on starting a riot?”
This weekend, law enforcement officials from neighboring counties reviewed the weapons stash to see if any of the weapons originated in their jurisdictions, according to the Observer.
“There were five sheriffs standing around — all of us with at least 25 years of experience — and none of us have ever seen anything like this,” Brooks told the paper. “The [state] agents had never seen anything like this.”
Nicholson, who has a “lengthy record,” according to Brooks, has been charged with possession of stolen property.
However, Brooks told the Observer, “There’s much more to come.”