By Jonathan Phelps and Julie Manganis
MANCHESTER — A Manchester man who told police he was preparing for "Armageddon" has been charged with having explosive hand grenade "devices" and a stockpile of weapons and ammunition in his Bridge Street condominium.
Gregory Girard, 45, was arrested at 11:22 Tuesday night after the Police Department was notified by the federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) Bureau in Boston that they received a report of Girard possessing explosive hand-grenade devices along with a cache of other weapons.
Girard, who lived at 23B Bridge St., with his wife and 16-year-old son, was charged with four counts of possession of grenade type explosive devices — including tear gas and explosive pepper ball canisters — and four counts of possession of dangerous weapons which include two police fixed batons and two police expandable batons.
He is being held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing tomorrow in Salem District Court, where he pleaded not guilty to the multiple weapons charges yesterday at his arraignment.
On Monday, Girard's wife, a psychiatrist, contacted town police to express concern about her husband's increasing paranoia and apparent stockpiling of weapons, prosecutor Honor Segal said yesterday in court.
Kristine Girard told police that, while her husband hadn't threatened her, she was afraid to return home after an argument.
She said her husband had recently told her, "Don't talk to people, shoot them instead," and "It's fine to shoot people in the head because traitors deserve it," Segal said, reading from a police report. The ATF received its tip from a friend of Girard's wife.
He was also charged with discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling, because an illegal shooting range was set up in an attic storage area littered with shell casings. Girard said in court that he fires his .22-caliber rifle inside of that loft area and had installed a steel backstop.
"Mr. Girard indicated he was preparing for 'Armageddon' which he felt was imminent," Police Chief Glenn McKiel said in a prepared statement. He added that Girard also felt that Martial Law "would soon be imposed."
Neighbors in the three-unit condominium said yesterday that Girard was a quiet man who didn't leave his residence much.
"He was very pleasant every time I saw him," said Beverly Young, who lives in one of the other units with her 17-year-old son. "He had his own issues, but I don't think he would harm anyone."
All the lights appeared to be out in Girard's condo last night, while a package remained unopened on the doorstep.
McKiel said there was evidence that Girard had been actively shooting in the illegal shooting range in the attic. He said he doesn't know how nearby residents didn't hear any of the shooting.
Young said she has never heard gun shots, but would hear rustling and people moving around late into the night and early morning. She said that Girard told her once that if she heard gun shot like sound that "he was working on sheet metal with an airgun."
She said she just bought the condominium in August, moved in October and said she doesn't plan to move out.
Police also found approximately 20 weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition in the condominium for which Girard was licensed. There was also a large collection of military camouflage clothing, knives, several pairs of handcuffs, bulletproof vests and helmets, night vision goggles, a large supply of medicine, and six months' worth of food supplies throughout the home.
"There was a great potential of danger with the amount of fire power he had," McKiel said, adding that Girard had assault rifles and military grade weapons along with the largest collection of ammunition he has ever seen including armor piercing bullets. "We don't think he was preparing to attack the community he was preparing for domestic and political turmoil."
Manchester Police were assisted by the Cape Ann Regional Response Tactical Unit, the Massachusetts State Police Tactical Unit, Explosive Devices Team, Crisis Negotiation Team, K-9 unit, and agents of the ATF Boston Field Office.
Prior to executing the search warrant police negotiators tried to reach Girard by telephone in an attempt to talk him from his home, but were unable to do so. Tactical officers then evacuated the two other condominium units in the building bringing the residents to the police station while the operation was in progress.
"Our goal was to have him come out to us, but he didn't and we had to gain entry," said McKiel, who was at the scene Tuesday night. He said Girard was working on his home computer when the teams surprised and arrested him.
Police described Girard as cooperative and acknowledged he did have grenades, but claiming "they are legal."
Christopher Beares, a lawyer appointed yesterday to represent Girard during his arraignment questioned whether any of the charges will hold up, suggesting that the grenades were actually just legal smoke bombs, and that Girard has a right to use his gun inside his home.
Girard's license to carry firearms was revoked and all of the weapons and ammunition were seized by police. It is unknown how long Girard has lived in town, but he had his firearms license since May of last year. He had bought 18 weapons in the last 10 months, McKiel said.
"He will not have the proper license to own these weapons from here on out," McKiel said.
Girard ran Girard Consulting Partners from his condominium. The company "provides expert witness and other consulting services to clients that require a technical expert with an in-depth knowledge of telecommunications technology," according to his Web site.
Police say Girard reportedly had no criminal record, and was not known to police.
The incident is the second time in a little more than two months that a Cape Ann resident had been arrested on multiple charges involving a significant stockpile of weapons.
James M. Atkinson of Rockport, then a part-time town EMT, faced multiple drug and weapon charges in December after police found a cache of firearms, thousands of assorted prescription pills, a tear-gas launcher and a military-grade rocket launcher — all inside his Rockport apartment.
Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3447, or via e-mail at email@example.com.