A disabled Army veteran is facing stalking and weapons charges after he was found with guns and waiting outside a recent Westboro Baptist protest gathering. The church is known for its controversial military funeral protests.
Police in Marion, Kansas have charged 26-year-old Ryan Newell, who lost both legs while serving in Afghanistan, with five misdemeanors including stalking, three weapons charges, and and false impersonation of a law enforcement officer.
The local sheriff's department arrested Newell on Thursday after it spotted him following a van carrying church members. The department later found him camped out in a car outside City Hall where church members were meeting with detectives.
The Wichita Eagle reports:
In the vehicle, investigators found two handguns, a rifle and more than 90 rounds of ammunition, sources have said.
The stalking charge accuses Newell of actions targeted at Westboro members and putting them in fear for their safety.
The weapons charges accuse him of unlawfully carrying and concealing or possessing with "intent to use" an M4 rifle, .45-caliber Glock handgun and .38-caliber Smith and Wesson handgun.
Newell is currently being held on $500,000 bond. During his initial hearing, two lawyers showed up to represent him, and he told the judge that numerous others have offered to do the same.
"The more the merrier, I suppose," the judge quipped.
The Eagle reports that Newell is the recipient of numerous military medals and honors, including the purple heart and the bronze star.
"I don't particularly like them going to funerals. I can understand why he didn't like that," Newell's grandmother told the paper. "Because he went to go do a job, and he lost his legs doing that job."
"It's kind of disappointing," one community member told the paper.