Police on both sides of the border have their sights on a 37-year-old Langley man accused of converting semi-automatic guns into fully automatic guns with silencers, and shipping them all over the world.
On the morning of July 17, Bradley Michael Friesen was arrested at his tent at the NK’Mip campground in Osoyoos, where he was camping with his five-year-old son. Numerous firearms and illegal firearms-related devices were seized from Friesen’s van at the campground. Many of the firearms found in the van were stashed underneath a booster seat in which Friesen’s young son was seated, as well as at the feet of the child.
In May, officers from the Tucson office of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives called RCMP to tell them they had been investigating Friesen for selling Glock switches, silencers and gun parts via the internet.
A joint Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C. (CFSEU-BC) and U.S. investigation began, resulting in investigators conducting surveillance on him and his activities.
“It did not take long before he was observed mailing packages of parts and silencers to addresses in Canada, the U.S., and Australia,” said CFSEU-BC’s Sgt. Linsday Houghton at a press conference at RCMP headquarters in Surrey on Thursday.
Police also observed the man visiting a home in Langley, which officers quickly suspected of being a workshop for making silencers and gun parts.
The investigation revealed that the suspect was going camping in Osoyoos on July 16.
“With him out of town, investigators obtained search warrants for his residence in the 21000-block 95A Avenue, his pickup truck, his workshop and his van located at the NK’Mip campground in Osoyoos, and his tent at the campground,” said Houghton.
On July 16, the CFSEU-BC was advised by the United States Attorney in Tucson, Arizona that they had indicted the man on weapons trafficking charges and would be seeking extradition to the United States.
Friesen is facing 46 firearm and trafficking firearm charges here in Canada and is being held in the Surrey pre-trial centre.
But the U.S. wants to try him as well and prosecutor have started the process to send him there.
“As we all know charges in the U.S. carry much longer sentences if convicted,” said Houghton.
Police said that Friesen, who has prior gun convictions, flew under their radar and wouldn’t have been investigated without the U.S. Bureau contacting them.
“We don’t know how long he has been doing this. He is fairly prolific and his level of expertise is very unique. He is Mr. Frankenstein of gun making,” said Houghton.
A family member of Friesen’s was called to take the boy but Ministry of Children and Family Services were called to investigate.
Friesen rents two properties on 95A Avenue in Walnut Grove.
He is known to police and was convicted of attempted murder with a firearm in Penticton in 2003. He had a lifetime firearms ban.
Police say he is connected to several mid-level crime groups.
Among items seized from Friesen was a fully functional gun made and used in the Second World War. Also seized was a high powered rifle identical to the kind used in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook.
“Bradley Friesen is a dangerous offender who is alleged to have showed a complete disregard for the safety of the public, including compromising the safety of his own child by putting him in proximity to firearms and other weapons. As a parent, I find this absolutely appalling,” said Houghton.
Charges to date include:
• Weapons Trafficking (manufacturing or transferring for consideration) – five counts
• Possession for the purpose of weapons trafficking – five counts
• Importing or exporting knowing it is unauthorized – three counts
• Importing or exporting knowing it is unauthorized (components/parts designed for use in the manufacture of or assembly into an automatic firearm) – two counts
• Importing or exporting knowing it is unauthorized (firearm, prohibited devices, prohibited ammunition, etc) – nine counts
• Possession contrary to prohibition order – 12 counts
• Possession of a prohibited or restricted firearm with ammunition without holding authorization or licence – four counts
• Careless use of a firearm (including prohibited devices and ammunition) – contravention of storage regulations – six counts.
Items seized from the van and the tent in Osoyoos included:
• 1 CZ858 fully automatic assault rifle, loaded (“unpinned”) 75-round drum magazine, and
loaded (“unpinned”) 40-round magazine
• 1 AR 15 assault rifle (converted to fire fully automatic)
• 1 Sten sub machine gun with 32-round “unpinned” magazine and ammunition
• 32 Glock auto switches (prohibited devices)
• 7 “silencers” (sound suppressors)
• Numerous “unpinned” and “pinned” magazines with ammunition.
The search of his residence resulted in the seizure of:
• 1 CZ858 semi-automatic rifle
• Books on constructing silencers
• Baffles used in the making of silencers.