JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Three people were caught on an alleged vigilante mission with an arsenal of weapons, during a routine traffic stop at the Holland Tunnel on Tuesday, authorities said.
As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, John Cramsey, 50, and Dean Smith, 53, both of Zionsville, Pennsylvania, and Kimberly Arendt, 29, of Lehighton, each face several weapons charges. They were arrested as they passed through the tunnel around 7:40 a.m.
The group claimed they were vigilantes on their way to “extricate” a teenage girl who was being held by a drug dealer, police said. Initial reports said the teenage girl was in Queens, though Facebook posts from Cramsey indicated the girl was believed to be in a hotel room in Brooklyn.
Before getting busted with the cache of weapons, police said the trio of suspects certainly was not going for subtlety when they decided to head into the Holland Tunnel.
Their big-wheeled sport-utility vehicle was hard to miss, trimmed with neon paint and plastered with decals for Higher Ground Tactical – a Pennsylvania gun range. Cramsey is the owner of the gun range.
But it was actually eagle-eyed Port Authority police Officer John Basil who pulled over the vehicle at the entrance to the Holland Tunnel, after noticing a crack low on their windshield.
He told driver Smith to step out, police said.
“And upon approaching the motor vehicle, the officer observed in plain view a loaded pistol magazine,” said Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police Supervisor Michael Fedorko. “He had the driver exit the vehicle, and when then driver got out, he noticed a .45-caliber handgun on the driver’s seat.”
Inside the SUV were:
- A pump action shotgun with a pistol grip and collapsible stock
- An SAR-98 Salamander Arms assault rifle
- 7 clips of ammunition for the rifle
- 4 9mm pistols
- 1 .45 caliber pistol, with several magazines
- A Kevlar bullet resistant helmet with camouflage cover
- Tactical goggles
- Night-vision goggles
- Body armor
Some of the guns were loaded, police said.
Sources said the suspects told police they were on their way through the city to rescue a friend who was being held hostage by a drug dealer.
While traveling to New York City, the suspects posted selfies from inside their tricked-out truck, CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported.
Cramsey posted on Facebook, “The young lady is scared to death and wants to go home to her folks,” along with a graphic reading, “Enough is enough!” in boldface red letters.
Cramsey is well-known in and around Allentown as the owner of the gun shop, CBS2’s Aiello reported.
Cramsey’s 20-year-old daughter, Alexandria, died from a heroin overdose four months ago Tuesday and he has since attended town hall meetings around the Allentown area to voice his concerns over the drug epidemic, The Morning Call newspaper in Allentown, Pennsylvania, reported.
“This is a plague and we are losing our brightest and most brilliant minds,” Cramsey told the newspaper shortly after his daughter was found dead of an overdose with another man inside an Allentown home.
Friends of Cramsey’s told CBS2’s Aiello he feels tremendous guilt and began an “enough is enough” campaign. He also put decals on his truck reading, “Shoot your local heroin dealer.”
CBS2’s Aiello spoke on the phone with Cramsey’s friend, Michael Nickisher.
“Ever since his daughter died, I think it was one of those things where he wishes he could have done something to save her, and now that she’s gone, he feels this guilt in his heart that he needs to help other people,” Nickisher said.
While Cramsey likely would have known about the tough gun laws in New Jersey and New York as a licensed firearms dealer, Nickisher said his friend has not been thinking straight since his daughter died.
Police sources told CBS2 the girl the group was looking to extricate was found in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Police found she was not being held against her will but did need assistance, and was safe with the NYPD late Tuesday.
Port Authority police and the Joint Terrorism Task Force of New York and New Jersey were investigating their claims late Tuesday.
“The criminal portion of the investigation is still ongoing. However, it has been determined that there is absolutely no nexus to terrorism,” Fedorko said.
Port Authority officials said at the Holland Tunnel, their police force makes an average of one illegal weapons arrest a week due to equipment violations like they saw on Tuesday. Police emphasized the suspects had no terrorist ties, and thankfully so, because they would have made it through the tunnel if not for the cracked windshield.
(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)