Two Atlantic County women were arrested last week after allegedly trying to sell a high-powered rifle and the makings for several pipe bombs — with instructions.
Atlantic City police joined by members of multiple law enforcement agencies announced the arrests Tuesday.
A Savage .30-06 rifle with scope, more than 300 rounds of ammunition for it and the materials to make five pipe bombs were recovered.
The investigation began with information received by Patrol Officers Alberto Valles and Christopher Dodson, who are part of the city’s directed patrols, that focus on areas that need attention.
“They were instrumental in getting us information that sparked the whole investigation,” Capt. James Sarkos said.
Police learned on Oct. 5 that Danielle Demers — a transgender woman also known as Daniel Smith — was trying to sell the rifle with scope and ammunition, along with the pipe-making materials and was even providing instructions, Chief Henry White said.
She even noted that “they should be filled with nails to act as shrapnel,” he said.
When police learned that the buyers were actively being sought, “it caused us basically to drop everything we were doing and give it our full attention,” Sarkos said.
Nothing indicated any connection to terrorism, Sarkos said. “But we are very concerned about the destructive nature of these devices and the damage they could have caused.”
The FBI, Homeland Security and Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office were notified, White said. With Atlantic City Detectives Brian Hambrecht and Nick Berardis leading the investigation.
Within a few hours, a sale was made, and police recovered the items.
Demers, 37, was arrested as she left her apartment on the first block of South Pennsylvania Avenue by members of the Atlantic City SWAT team. Nina House, 31, of Margate, was also arrested after it was found she conspired with Demers.
Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner lauded the success of the joint effort.
“I want to thank the public, because the public is our greatest partner in assuring that these things do not occur,” he said. “When the public steps up and when they see something, they say something, we are able to act at a much quicker pace.”
White commended the patrol officers who sparked the investigation.
“They’re excellent proactive and aggressive police officers,” said Capt. Chris Kammerman, who oversees patrol.
White would not comment on how much was paid in the undercover transaction or whether there was video captured.
“I think it’s obvious how dangerous this situation could have been,” Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian said, giving credit to the trust that the department has built with the public in recent years.
“We take every threat seriously,” said Timothy Gallagher, special agent in charge of the Newark FBI Field Office. “In that light, we urge the public to report any and all suspicious activity to the FBI or any of our partners.”
Demers and House are charged with unlawful possession of a destructive device, possession of a destructive device for an unlawful purpose, possession of an explosive substance for an unlawful purpose, unlawful sale of a firearm, unlawfully teaching another to use an explosive and conspiracy.
Both were taken to the Atlantic County Justice Facility.
The investigation is continuing, but no other suspects are believed to be involved at this time.
Anyone with information about this case is asked to call the Atlantic City Police Department’s Special Investigations Section at 609-347-5858. Information can also be texted anonymously to tip411 (847411) beginning the text with ACPD.