Wayne County deputies seized a weapon of mass destruction found during a routine traffic stop Sunday in the Stevens Mill Road area.
Deputy Tyler Kelly, with the Wayne County Sheriff's Office, was patrolling Stevens Mill Road when he pulled behind Bradley Harper, 34, of 4547 Stevens Mill Road, according to an investigation report. Kelly followed Harper for 2 miles, during which Harper drifted left to right and drifted over the middle lane on three separate occasions.
Kelly pulled Harper over around 5:50 a.m. Sunday for an unsafe movement violation and saw an AR-15 lying on the dashboard. After identifying Harper as a suspect of interest in several breaking and entering cases, Kelly asked Harper if he could take possession of the gun while processing his information for the duration of the traffic stop as a safety precaution.
Harper allowed Kelly to take possession of the gun. Kelly, who has experience working in the military and for the sheriff's office SWAT team, immediately realized the safety was off. After turning the safety on, Kelly then removed the magazine and a round of bullets from the charger before checking for outstanding warrants on Harper and his two passengers. He also checked to determine if the gun was stolen.
Kelly returned to the gun after all three of the vehicle's occupants were cleared and issued a verbal warning, during which he told Harper that it was unsafe to carry a gun with the safety off and loaded. He also demonstrated to Harper where the safety was located, but then noticed obscene writing where the safety would be if it were capable of automatic fire.
During the demonstration, Kelly discovered the fire selector could be switched to a fully automatic firing position. Kelly reported he had reason to believe the gun had fully automatic firing capabilities and issued a property receipt to take the gun for further inspection. Harper signed the receipt and turned the gun over to Kelly.
N.C. General Statute 14-288.8 (c) classifies any firearm capable of automatic firing as a “weapon of mass death and destruction,” which the manufacture, assembly, possession, storage, transportation, sale, purchase, delivery or acquisition of is prohibited without proper licensing or permit. Possession of a weapon of mass death and destruction without proper licensing or permit is a Class F felony.
At the time the AR-15 was seized, Kelly had not determined if Harper had a permit for the weapon.
"They’re running the investigation, basically making sure that he does have a permit," said Maj. Richard Lewis, with the Wayne County Sheriff's Office. "If he has a permit, he’s legal.”
Lewis said guns capable of fully automatic firing are “very, very rarely” confiscated. He said a private citizen could possess a fully automatic gun with the proper permit issued through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“If you have not been granted a permit from the government through the ATF, they are illegal to possess, own, transport, trade and anything in that nature,” Lewis said.
“They can be issued to anyone who applies through the government and meets their guidelines. They can get a permit. How often that occurs, how many of those are in Wayne County, I do not know.”
Lewis said he was unaware of any charges filed against Harper for any breaking and entering incidents in the area.
“I’m not aware of any charges that have been filed, but we’ve had a rash of breaking and enterings in the southwest part of Wayne County,” Lewis said. “At this time, no charges have been filed."