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RI CRIME

R.I. man caught stockpiling guns will remain in custody as judge deliberates decision

“I take very seriously the constitutional right you have to your liberty and a presumption of innocence,” the Federal Chief justice told Ronald Armand Andruchuk on Thursday. “I also take very seriously the government’s duty to keep the community safe.”

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

PROVIDENCE — The more he heard about the case of a Burrillville man accused of stockpiling more than 200 guns and shooting into neighbor’s yards, the more that US District Court Chief Justice John J. McConnell Jr. said the word “mind-boggling.”

How was Ronald Armand Andruchuk able to accumulate so many guns within just a few months, the chief justice wanted to know during a hearing on Thursday.

Why hadn’t Burrillville police taken action when neighbors complained multiple times that he was shooting into their yards? Why hadn’t police arrested him on Feb. 23, when a neighbor took video of bullets flying into her family’s yard, and officers had to duck for cover?

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How is it legal for people to buy kits to make guns, without serial numbers, as Andruchuk was allegedly doing?

And, what was Andruchuk planning to do with all those guns?

By the end of Thursday’s hearing on a federal prosecutor’s emergency motion to revoke a magistrate judge’s order to release Andruchuk before a trial, McConnell said he needed time to mull over what he’d learned before issuing a decision.

“I take very seriously the constitutional right you have to your liberty and a presumption of innocence,” McConnell said to Andruchuk, who was watching the remote hearing from Wyatt Detention Facility. “I also take very seriously the government’s duty to keep the community safe. They presented quite a bit of evidence.”

“I have talked about the mindboggling-ness of this. Not that I won’t follow the law — I absolutely will follow where the law leads. But it’s a lot to analyze because of these serious conflicting issues,” McConnell added.

Andruchuk, 37, is being held on federal charges of 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. He had a previous record of illegal drug use, which he denied on applications to buy firearms, according to court records.

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Burrillville police are also charging him with shooting in a compact area, a misdemeanor. He is also facing charges from authorities in Massachusetts for an incident in December when he allegedly hid 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. Burrillville police rejected his application to buy two more guns afterward, purportedly to replace the ones he’d left in Millbury.

Ronald A. Andruchuk of Burrillville, R.I.Burrillville police

Andruchuk, an occasional host of a local, alternative right-wing YouTube talk show and unsuccessful Republican candidate for a House seat representing Cranston, began buying up scores of firearms over the last several months — enough to get the attention of an ATF special agent.

He had been a $100-a-day substitute teacher in Providence and an unlicensed counselor at the DaVinci Center in Cranston, but he told gun dealers that he’d made a lot of money in cryptocurrency and decided to collect guns, according to court records.

Andruchuk and his wife moved their three young sons out of Cranston late last fall and into a house at 1746 Tarkiln Road in Burrillville that they bought outright for about $480,000. Soon afterward, neighbors began hearing gunfire coming from Andruchuk’s property at all hours — with rounds searing through neighbors’ yards. One family moved out temporarily.

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After nine complaints from neighbors since December, police arrested Andruchuk on Feb. 24, after firing shots into his neighbors’ yard and over the heads of Burrillville police officers. He’d been under investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives for buying up masses of guns since July, despite a history of drug use.

Dan Bidondi, the host of the YouTube program “Truth Radio” who described himself as Andruchuk’s cousin, said Andruchuk was not a threat to the public.

“He needs help, not to be in prison,” Bidondi told the Globe. “Everybody who knows him said he’s a giant teddy bear, kind and respectful. He’s not dangerous, and not a criminal.”

Bidondi said that Andruchuk has a drug addiction. He blamed police in Cranston and Burrillville, as well as the FBI, for not doing a proper background check and preventing Andruchuk from buying guns.

A state law passed in 2020 requires gun sellers to send firearms applications to a potential buyer’s local police department, or the state police for people who live in Exeter or out of state. The intent behind the law, which was prompted by a mass shooting in Westerly in 2019, is that local police are more likely to have information about a potential buyer’s mental health or substance abuse issues.

“He did lie on application and it’s wrong, but it’s their job to make sure he told the truth,” said Bidondi. “Three agencies allowed him to buy 169 guns, when he shouldn’t have been able to buy one.”

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

On Feb. 25, Magistrate Justice Patricia Sullivan tried to craft an order to release Andruchuk, while taking the community’s safety into consideration. Her order included that Andruchuk not possess any firearms and that he submit to drug and mental health treatment, and be on GPS monitoring to exclude him from places that sell guns.

Assistant US Attorney Sandra Hebert appealed on Monday, arguing that Andruchuk was a danger to the community. She argued before McConnell that Andruchuk wouldn’t likely follow orders, given that he was allegedly making guns himself. Law enforcement found a “ghost gun” short-barrel rifle in the closet of the master bedroom and kits, accessories, tools for other firearms under construction.

He’d bought all of his firearms legally, but stored them so haphazardly that there were piles of firearms in the basement, more than 40 more scattered just in the master suite, and firearms in nearly every room of the house, unsecured, she said. There were crates of ammunition in the house, and even a flamethrower on the kitchen counter, she said. His three boys — a 10-year-old and 5-year-old twins — lived in the home with him and his wife.

Andruchuk appeared to be turning the quiet house into a “compound” and fortifying it with stacks of pallets in the back, Hebert said.

Burrillville police had tried to talk to Andruchuk before about shooting off his premises, she said. When an officer spoke to him on Feb. 20 about needing to use berms and fire safely, Andruchuk appeared to be cooperative, Hebert said. A few days later, neighbors were running from gunfire — and police officers were ducking for cover as one ran to stop him.

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“I saw that [cell-phone] video, and I can’t call that anything other than frightening,” McConnell said. “If I were that neighbor, I would have moved out.”

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.

Public Defender Kevin Fitzgerald said Thursday that Andruchuk would promise not to possess firearms and comply with probation; Andruchuk nodded along.

Fitzgerald said that probation could restrict Andruchuk’s access to the internet, so he couldn’t order more gun kits to make guns himself, and that he would do a walk-through of the house and 11-acre property with law enforcement to make sure they had seized all of his firearms.

But Hebert said that she had little trust in Andruchuk, based on his past behavior. The Burrillville police and the ATF had worked together to try to do everything they could to protect the public, within the laws they had, she said.

“This is an unusual situation, and we’ve taken it to unusual lengths, because we are afraid,” Hebert said.

But McConnell said one important question wasn’t really answered: What was Andruchuk planning to do with all those guns?

“I’ve yet to hear anything that makes me feel like those weapons weren’t going to be used for mass destruction, or for harm, or for injury,” the chief justice said. “I can’t in my head come up with a single, legitimate, community-safe reason for why someone in a short period of time would own 200 some-odd firearms in their home and use them.”

Fitzgerald said that Andruchuk just wanted them. And, except for the US attorney’s allegations of drug use, there was nothing to stop Andruchuk from buying and making all the guns he desired.

Andruchuk’s cousin, Bidondi, said that Andruchuk is a firearms enthusiast, and that Burrillville’s symbolic status as a “Second Amendment Sanctuary City,” passed by the Town Council in 2019, was one of the reasons that he moved there.

Bidondi said the flame-thrower was used to clear brush and build a berm so Andruchuk could shoot on his property. He said there were two locks and a “vibration detector” to alert if someone was near the door to the basement, where Andruchuk kept most of the guns, and that the other guns in the house were out of reach of the children.

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

Andruchuk was a “prepper” who wanted to keep his family safe in case the world fell apart, so he had seeds for a farm and lots of firearms for self-defense, Bidondi said.

Photos of the firearms in Andruchuk’s basement show copies of The Epoch Times, a far-right newspaper affiliated with the Falun Gong new religious movement.

01RIGuns - Some of the firearms found in the basement of Ronald Andruchuk's home in Burrillville. (US District Court of Rhode Island)US District Court of Rhode Island

Bidondi denied that Andruchuk had any ill intent with all the firearms and said his cousin had talked about collecting guns so he could open a gun store. Andruchuk was not a licensed gun dealer.

Andruchuk had been charged with drug crimes in 2019, when police said he had oxycodone and admitted to having a drug problem. Andruchuk received a deferred sentence, which was later expunged. He’d been treated for mental health issues, according to an affidavit supporting a search warrant, and his family had called police about his wellbeing in May 2021, when they were still living in Cranston.

Bidondi acknowledged that Andruchuk’s addiction should have prevented him from buying any guns.

“It’s wrong for him to do what he did, but the system allowed him to do it,” Bidondi said. “What if he was a maniac? Then they’d blame the Second Amendment.”


Amanda Milkovits can be reached at amanda.milkovits@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMilkovits.