Weapons found after fired nuke plant worker arrested

By Chelsea J. Carter The Associated Press
Thursday January 10, 2002

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — A man who allegedly threatened to kill former co-workers after he was fired from a nuclear power plant was in custody Wednesday after authorities found a weapons cache that included a rocket launcher, tear gas and hand grenades. 

Authorities believe David Reza, 43, wanted revenge for losing his job as a mechanic at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and was not part of a terrorist plot. 

“I believe he acted as an individual, as a disgruntled employee,” said Jim Amormino, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. 

Reza was arrested late Tuesday and booked for investigation of terrorist threats. He was being held in Orange County Men’s Central Jail in Santa Ana. 

In a telephone interview from the jail, Reza told the Orange County Register he did not threaten anyone. He said he was being picked on because he is a Native American and because of an ongoing disability dispute with Southern California Edison, which runs the nuclear power plant 65 miles south of Los Angeles. 

“I was just upset and told this guy...’do I have to come over there and put my foot in your (expletive deleted) to get them moving?”’ he said. 

Reza said the guns found by deputies are antiques that he has been collecting since he was a kid. 

“The police took a bunch of antiques,” Reza’s live-in girlfriend, Kristi Mattauch, told The Associated Press. “Did they tell you most of it was from the 18th century? Did they tell you most of it was BB guns?” 

“I’ve called the NRA. This is just ridiculous. He didn’t do anything wrong,” she said. 

Sheriff’s officials did not immediately return a call for comment about the weapons. 

Deputies served search warrants at the man’s Laguna Niguel home and a storage unit in nearby San Juan Capistrano, finding 54 weapons at the house and more than 200 in the storage locker. 

The locker also contained 4,000 to 5,000 rounds of ammunition and four inert hand grenades lying next to a container of explosive powder. 

Some of the weapons were illegal to possess, authorities said. 

“We take every threat serious, especially those from former employees of a nuclear power plant,” Amormino said. “Is the person capable of carrying out the threat? Considering we found a cache of weapons and ammunition, we think the answer is yes.” 

The man was fired from his job at the San Onofre plant last month and called the plant several times allegedly threatening employees and supervisors, Amormino said. 

Ray Golden, a spokesman for Southern California Edison, said the man had worked at the facility since 1984 and did not have access to the nuclear reactor. 

The man’s access permit to that area was revoked in 1995 but Golden would not say why. He also declined to say why the man had been fired. 

The man “made statements outside the workplace” about employees that caused plant officials to alert the FBI and Orange County Sheriff’s Department, but he did not threaten the plant, Golden said. 

“The FBI determined it was not a federal issue and referred it to the Sheriff’s Department,” Golden said. 

Edison has increased security at the generator since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. 

Amormino said the man had threatened to “come back and shoot” employees. 

“He did threaten supervisors ... and anyone who had anything to do with his termination,” he said. 

No other arrests have been made. 

At the storage unit, two deputies were overcome by a yellowish vapor that officials believe was military-grade tear gas stored in an ammunition canister. 

Both deputies were taken to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo where they were treated and released. A hazardous materials team and the Orange County bomb squad responded to the storage unit. 

Shirley Wickham, manager of the Capistrano Properties Self-Storage facility, said the man had rented the space for more than four years. She described him as “an easygoing, single man who enjoyed life.” 

She was unaware that he worked at the nuclear plant and said he represented himself as a construction worker. 

“I thought he was self-employed,” Wickham said. 

At Reza’s house in an upscale development of two-story homes, an American flag hung from a pole near the front door. The shades were drawn and a black truck was parked in the driveway. 

Neighbor Sharon Walde said he had moved into the house with Mattauch, a real estate agent, nearly two years ago. 

“They were just your average quiet family,” Walde said, adding they rarely attended neighborhood block parties or other gatherings.