N.J. Grenade Launcher Suspect Was a Navy Deserter

Man arrested with weapons cache went AWOL from USS Orion more than 10 years ago.

ByABC News via logo
January 26, 2010, 8:12 AM

Jan. 26, 2010 — -- The man arrested in New Jersey with a cache of weapons that included a grenade launcher was a U.S. Navy deserter, a spokesman for the Navy said today.

According to naval records, Woodson served on the USS Orion beginning in February 1988 until he deserted in April 1989. He was returned to Navy custody eight years later and discharged soon after. Navy spokesman Lt. Justin Cole told ABCNews.com that generally speaking, those who go AWOL do not receive honorable discharges.

Local authorities in Branchburg Township, N.J., arrested Woodson, of Reston, Va., Monday after responding to a call about a man acting suspiciously, according to a report by the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office.

When the first officers on the scene originally questioned Woodson, he became "extremely nervous" and fled from the cops into a trailer park. He was subsequently found hiding in the bushes nearby, and police tackled him after he attempted another escape on foot, prosecutors said.

When he was arrested, Woodson was wearing a bulletproof vest and was carrying a high-powered rifle under a long military-style jacket with several clips of hollow-point ammunition.

Later, investigators found the cache of weapons, which in addition to a grenade launcher, included another high-powered rifle, a night vision scope, a police scanner, a head scarf that looked Middle Eastern, a map of a military installation and a map of an out-of-state civilian community. Hundreds of rounds for each rifle were also found.

The serial numbers for the rifles had been defaced, apparently to hinder an investigation into their origins.

Though prosecutors said they were still investigating Woodson's intentions, the FBI told ABCNews.com that the incident was "not a terrorism thing."

"We just went out there and investigated, met with the folks that were the local authorities," Special Agent Bryan Travers, an FBI public affairs officer, told ABCNews.com. "We determined it wasn't a terrorism thing."

Woodson is being held at the Somerset County Jail on several felony weapons charges. Bail has been set at $75,000.

"In our experience, for private citizens to have this type of armament is quite unusual in Somerset County," Somerset County Prosecutor Wayne Forrest told New Jersey's Star Ledger Monday. "If you're over in Afghanistan, it wouldn't be rare."