PROVIDENCE — US District Court Chief Justice John J. McConnell Jr. decided Monday that a Burrillville man accused of illegally buying more than 200 firearms and shooting into neighbor’s yards can be released before his trial, with certain conditions.
Ronald Armand Andruchuk, 37, a counselor at the DaVinci Center and an unsuccessful Republican candidate for a House seat, has been held at the Wyatt Detention Center since his arrest on Feb. 24 on federal charges.
Last July, just two months after his family called Cranston police with concerns about his mental health, Andruchuk suddenly started buying up masses of guns. That caught the attention of a special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms. Then in December, shortly after Andruchuck moved his family to a secluded house in Burrillville, he caught the attention of local police for shooting on his property at all hours.
Some of those rounds went into neighbors’ properties — and narrowly missed hitting other people. Police officers called about gunfire had to duck for cover.
When law enforcement arrested Andruchuk and searched his home on Feb. 24, they found more than they expected: 211 unsecured firearms strewn throughout the house and piled in the basement, an estimated 10,000 rounds of ammunition, and even a flamethrower on a kitchen counter. Andruchuk was wearing a tactical vest and what he called a “battle belt,” which held four handguns, a knife, and drugs, according to an ATF affidavit. Another firearm was discovered later, when Andruchuk’s wife, Jennifer, went to a gun dealer to sell his gun bags and accessories.
US Magistrate Judge Patricia A. Sullivan had ordered his release on Feb. 28, under the conditions that Andruchuk didn’t possess guns and that he submit to substance abuse and mental health treatment. Assistant US Attorney Sandra Hebert appealed, saying that Andruchuk was a danger to the community and there were no conditions that could prevent him from obtaining more firearms.
However, McConnell said in his order that the government had not shown “clear and convincing evidence that there is no combination of conditions that would reasonably assure the safety of the community.”
He upheld Sullivan’s order to release, which was also supported by the US probation office, saying the court could develop sufficient and adequate conditions for Andruchuk’s release.
He also cited Andruchuk’s lack of a criminal history, his employment, and significant family ties as reasons for his release. Andruchuck and his wife have three young sons.
Andruchuk had been charged with drug crimes in 2019. He received a deferred sentence, which was later expunged, according to an affidavit supporting a search warrant.
“Mr. Andruchuk has a substance abuse problem, and likely mental health issues. The response to a person, presumed to be innocent who allegedly commits a crime induced by these factors, is to treat the substance abuse and mental health issues, not detain him where a detention center will not likely be able to address those needs,” McConnell wrote.
The case returns to Sullivan to craft an order that requires mental health and substance abuse treatment, prevents Andruchuk from obtaining firearms or firearms kits, and allows a thorough search of the property for more firearms. Andruchuk will also have to remove all of the surveillance and security devices he’d installed, which police believe warned him of their approach, and he will have to submit to unannounced searches.
Andruchuk will remain held until Sullivan’s order. A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday at 11 a.m.
Although McConnell had called the details of the case “mind boggling” during Thursday’s hearing on Hebert’s appeal, federal law doesn’t have limits on gun purchases. While Rhode Island has among the strictest gun laws in the nation — including banning “ghost guns” — there’s no state law limiting the number of firearms or the amount of ammunition a person can buy legally.
“While this Court said during the detention hearing that it was ‘mind boggling’ that someone in a brief period could obtain over 200 guns (including handguns, rifles, automatic weapons, and flamethrowers) and keep them in their home, there does not appear to be a law or regulation that prohibits such conduct,” McConnell added in a footnote to his order. “While this fact continues to boggle the Court’s mind, the Court is committed to following and upholding the law as it is currently written.”
The US Attorney’s office charged Andruchuk 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.
Those who have been convicted of a felony or who are drug users are not allowed to buy firearms. Andruchuk is accused of lying on the applications, when he denied using drugs, according to court records.
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.
Dan Bidondi, host of a far-right YouTube program who said he was Andruchuk’s cousin, told the Globe that Andruchuk was a drug addict. He said that Andruchuk wasn’t a threat — he was just a firearms enthusiast.
Bidondi said Andruchuk moved his family from Cranston to Burrillville because the Burrillville town council had designated it a “Second Amendment Sanctuary City.”
Andruchuk had been a $100-a-day substitute teacher in Providence and worked as an unlicensed counselor at the DaVinci Center, but told gun dealers that he’d made a lot of money in cryptocurrency and decided to collect guns, according to court records.
Andruchuk had made enough in cryptocurrency to buy the house at 1746 Tarkiln Road in Burrillville outright for about $480,000, and purchase firearms that the federal prosecutor estimated were worth about $100,000.
Bidondi told the Globe that Andruchuk bought the guns, especially AR-15s, as an investment and planned to sell them. Although Andruchuk isn’t a licensed gun dealer, he could legally sell the firearms through a licensed dealer.
Both Bidondi and Andruchuk’s employer at the DaVinci Center said that Andruchuk had expressed concerns about the gunfire he said he was hearing from his neighbors.