A former Tampa Bay area law enforcement officer was arrested Tuesday after Polk County deputies discovered military-grade explosives and weapons at his home in Bartow.
Officials said that deputies were called to the residence of Joel Ryals, 41, that day after a package with the label “C-4 explosive” was found at the home, Spectrum Bay News 9 reports.
Deputies conducted a search of the home, which is off State Road 60, and found several firearms, military-grade explosives and firearm silencers. The sheriff’s office called the federal Bureau of Fire and Arsons Investigations and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to assist in the investigation, according to the arrest report.
The BFAI charged Ryals with 14 counts of possession of explosives requiring a license. He was taken into custody in Newton County, Mississippi, where he was conducting K-9 training for a law enforcement agency.
While Ryals has a law enforcement background, including time served in the Army and the Florida National Guard, the sheriff’s office says he does not have the certifications to train K-9s or a license to possess military-grade explosives.
“Joel Ryals has a checkered law enforcement past, however, there is absolutely no reason for him to have this equipment,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said in a news release. “The military-grade explosives, materials to build bombs, and tactical equipment found in his possession are extremely dangerous. Although he posed no immediate threat to our community, he certainly could have used them for the wrong reasons.”
According to the report, deputies found a 1.25-pound block of C-4 explosive, a fully automatic rifle and several silencers.
The Army Criminal Investigations Division also responded to Ryals’ home and found:
▪ Military radio communication equipment.
▪ A U.S. Army compass.
▪ Flashlights, headlamps, helmet lights, personal medical kit.
▪ Gear bags.
▪ Weapon optics.
▪ An electric light for landing zones.
▪ AR bolts.
▪ 14 explosives including: a military time fuse, military ground burst simulator, booby trap flares, C-4 and a signal flare.
▪ 27 firearms including: handguns, shotguns, AR-style rifles and one inline muzzle loader.
Ryals has been a former law enforcement officer in Florida, Mississippi and Kentucky. His employment history includes:
▪ He was a deputy sheriff with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office from August 2006 to March 2013.
▪ He served as a public safety officer in Petersburg, Kentucky.
▪ He was a volunteer training officer with the Newton County Sheriff’s Office in Mississippi.
▪ He was released from duty as a Wyoming National Guard member on July 14, 2016, where he served as a military police officer and held the rank of major.
▪ Ryals also served active duty in the U.S. Army and Florida National Guard.