Ariz. man in court after trailer causes alarm on the Mall

By Dan Morse and Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, November 5, 2010

A white pickup truck parked in front of the National Air and Space Museum this week clearly got the attention of police officers.

Court documents filed Thursday told why: A trailer hitched to the truck held propane tanks connected by wires to four car batteries.

The truck's owner, James M. Patock, 66, of Marana, Ariz., appeared Thursday in D.C. Superior Court on firearms charges. His attorney briefly gave Patock's version of the events: Patock was passing thorough Washington, lives in the trailer with his dog, and should be allowed to keep rifles and a pistol where he sleeps.

"My client, who has a licensed vehicle, was pulling his 26-foot home, with all his belongings in the trailer," Patock's attorney, Larry Williams, said in court.

As of Thursday evening, authorities had made no public declaration that Patock had intended any harm. In the arrest affidavit that took note of the propane tanks, an officer also stated that no bombs were found in the truck or the trailer.

For police, the incident started just before 3 p.m. Wednesday. A U.S. Park Police officer, on patrol near the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum, spotted the truck, with trailer attached, parked in a handicapped spot.

The officer also saw the propane tanks and foil covering the trailer's windows. The D.C. police bomb squad was called. Traffic was shut down in the area of the Mall between Fourth and Seventh streets.

A short time later, the officers made contact with Patock. He said he had visited a National Rifle Association building, was an NRA member and had guns in the trailer, according to arrest records filed in court.

Officers searched the trailer and found identifications bearing different names, a bed, cameras, a laptop computer, more than $1,500 cash, a .223-caliber rifle, .243-caliber rifle, .22-caliber rifle, a .357-caliber pistol and boxes of ammunition, according to the court papers. Patock told the officers that he lived in the trailer and that he had been in the Washington area for about two weeks.

In court Thursday, Judge Karen Howze ordered Patock - who wore a T-shirt, jacket and khakis and was restrained by arm and leg chains - held until a hearing Friday. He was charged with two counts of transporting a firearm in a motor vehicle and carrying a pistol outside his residence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Schall said that Patock should be held because he was a "serious flight risk" and that he had a record of eight prior cases in Arizona. Warrants had been issued for three of the cases because Patock failed to appear in court, she said. Schall did not say what the prior cases involved.

Williams asked that Patock, who he says is taking medication for an undisclosed ailment, be placed in a medical unit while he is held at the D.C. jail.

Patock is scheduled to appear Friday before Judge Thomas J. Motley.

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