Callahan lawyer: Hobby led to hoarding in a dangerous way
Joseph C. Callahan is a collector -- of rifles, model trains and model rockets.
The 69-year-old Bronson Road resident is also a "hoarder," according to his lawyer, who amassed a collection of chemicals, explosives and ammunition in support of his hobbies.
"He's a very nice gentleman," the lawyer, Richard Meehan, said Tuesday, a day after Callahan turned himself in at police headquarters on charges of possessing and manufacturing explosives. "He's apologized to everybody involved, he can't apologize enough."
Callahan called police Tuesday of last week to report a possible burglary at his home. Police found no signs of a break-in, and after talking with Callahan, officers "became concerned about his state of mind," Meehan said.
In talking to the officers, Callahan admitted to taking prescription medications, along with a mixture of medications that had not been prescribed for him, according to the arrest warrant, but he said he is a chemist and knows how to order medications from the Internet. He was taken to local hospital, and released Monday.
Under the terms of his release from custody, Callahan has to stay away from his home at 1625 Bronson Road until authorities deem it has been sufficiently remediated. Meehan expects it will take several days to complete that cleanup, which Callahan has agreed to pay for.
"Some can simply be disposed of, others have to be taken to a certified facility," he said.
Until then, Callahan is staying with a friend.
"Whatever the fire marshal, and the hazmat people and the DEEP feel is problematic," Meehan said, adding that most of the items found there a week ago "had to do with his hobby of being an amateur rocketeer."
He definitely was not, according to Meehan, making bombs.
A member of the Skeet Shooting Hall of Fame, according to his lawyer, Callahan is a "wealth of information." A chemist who worked at the now-closed Remington Arms for years, he also worked to develop better weaponry for U.S. armed forces. "He is a fascinating individual."
Police removed some 274 guns, most of them rifles, from property. All of the firearms were legally owned, said Deputy Police Chief Chris Lyddy, and some were very valuable.
"We were very careful with them," Lyddy said, encasing them in bubble wrap to make sure they were not damaged.
The guns and ammunition were removed to make the scene at Bronson Road safe, police said
Some of the chemicals at the house are legal for Callahan to possess, but not in the quantities he had, Meehan said.
For example, Meehan said Callahan had several 55-gallon drums of aviation fuel that he had removed from his private plane and would use in one of his two Corvettes. They've learned that while it is not illegal for Callahan to have the aviation fuel, he cannot have more than 25 gallons at his home, Meehan said.
He also had about 100 pounds of a substance Callahan identified as ammonium nitrate, which he told officers was the chemical used in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the arrest warrant states, and vats he said contained the same kind of chemicals used in the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City.
Contradicting Meehan's statements, the arrest warrant says that Callahan told police that he likes to build rockets and had detonation cords in his house. He also said he was making a bomb for rocker Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, according to the warrant, which allegedly was in the garage next to the spray tank. Callahan couldn't remember if he had attached a fuse to it yet, the warrant says.
Callahan is paying for the chemical cleanup being done this week by a private contractor, Meehan said, and will also cover the costs of remediation done last week by state and local officials.
"His concern is he intends to demonstrate good," Meehan said. The chemicals and explosives "don't belong in a residential neighborhood and he recognizes that."
Meehan said the remediation costs are expected to run between $50,000 and $100,000.
He said they have no problem with the way the hazmat emergency was handled by local authorities.
"The Fairfield Police and Fire departments have acted absolutely appropriately," Meehan said. "Their first priority is caring for the community, and they've treated him like a gentleman."
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