Ex-Sonic charged after police seize grenade launcher, drugs
SEATTLE -- Former Seattle Sonic Robert Swift has been charged with a gun crime one month after police claim to have seized drugs, guns and a grenade launcher from the Kirkland home where he was living.
King County prosecutors describe Swift, 28, as a heavily armed heroin addict who admitted to helping his drug dealer-turned-roommate collect a drug debt. That man, 54-year-old Trygve Bjorkstam, is currently facing federal drug and gun charges.
Investigators contend a military-style grenade launcher and sawed-off shotgun were seized from Swift's bedroom during an Oct. 4 raid on Bjorkstam's Kirkland home, located 100 yards from an elementary school. Swift was charged Thursday with unlawful possession of a short-barreled shotgun
Accused of amassing an 18-gun arsenal to protect his drug business, Bjorkstam is said to have defended Swift to police, describing him as a "good guy" who helped him try to collect a heroin debt but did not deal drugs himself.
"People have been ripping me off," Bjorkstam told police, according to charging papers. "Rob and I are trying to put a stop to that."
Swift, a former starting center for the Sonics drafted to the NBA out of high school, has fallen on hard times since leaving basketball in 2009. His Sammamish home was foreclosed on last year, and he apparently wound up living with Bjorkstam around the time Bjorkstam is alleged to have started dealing heroin.
Known to police as "Trigg," Bjorkstam admitted to dealing heroin and meth, and to building a gun range in a bunker he dug under his home to house a marijuana grow, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent said in court papers. Police describe Bjorkstam, 54, as dejected and contrite following his arrest.
"l should just die," he told Redmond police, according to court papers. "My life is over. l'd probably be better off dead."
Bjorkstam initially faced drug charges in state court. Writing the court, King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Amy Montgomery said the situation Bjorkstam created - guns and drug trafficking 100 yards from an elementary school - had "the potential for serious violence."
In August, Redmond police investigating drug trafficking and organized theft found their way to a Kirkland home owned by Bjorkstam. The house sits in the 14000 block of 108th Avenue Northeast, 300 feet from Helen Keller Elementary School.
Detectives watched as a steady stream of visitors came and went from the home and concluded they were likely buying drugs there. Investigators continued their surveillance through August and September. According to charging papers, an informant bought methamphetamine and heroin from Bjorkstam.
Bjorkstam was known to police as an avid gun collector who always armed himself, the ATF special agent said in charging papers. Bjorkstam was thought to always carry at least one pistol, and sometimes carried two in dual shoulder holsters.
SWAT officers raided the home at 6 a.m. Oct. 4, a Saturday morning. Police arrested Bjorkstam as well as Swift.
Describing the scene, a Redmond police officer said drug paraphernalia was everywhere inside the home.
"There were used needles, methamphetamine pipes with residue, baggies with residue and pieces of used aluminum foil scattered in plain view throughout the residence and in both suspects' bedrooms," the officer said in court papers.
Searching the home, police seized dozens of weapons, including the sawed-off shotgun and grenade launcher, the ATF agent told the court. Several of the weapons were fitted with suppressors that may not have been properly registered; according to charging papers, Swift told police he had proper paperwork for the silencers.
Speaking with police, Swift said he had drug paraphernalia locked in his bedroom, the ATF agent told the court. He also claimed several suppressors and guns as his property.
Police searching Bjorkstam's room found a small amount of meth and a blackened frying pan locked in a safe, the ATF agent continued. Investigators contend Bjorkstam was using the pan to melt and dilute heroin, and that 4 grams of burned heroin were scrapped from the pan.
"Suspects involved on the trafficking of heroin will commonly 'cut' their product to make additional quantities to sell," the Redmond police officer explained in court papers. "This allows them to sell more product than they actually purchased earning them more money."
According to charging papers, police searching Bjorkstam's safe also found 17 guns - three assault rifles and 10 pistols among them. A 9 mm Walther pistol was resting near Bjorkstam's bed, the ATF agent added.
Swift's bedroom was equally well stocked with firearms, according to the ATF agent's statement.
A 12 gauge shotgun was propped behind his door, and seven firearms were found on or under his bed, the ATF agent said. One of those was a sawed-off shotgun 8 1/2 inches shorter than federal law requires. Also seized was a 40 mm grenade launcher locked in a safe in Swift's room, the ATF agent said. It's unclear whether the weapon, which retails for $1,800, was registered appropriately.
ATF spokesman Brian Bennett said 40 mm grenade launchers can be legally acquired if certain criteria are met and taxes paid. Few buyers do so, however, in part because 37 mm grenade launchers - used to fire flares and smoke grenades - can be bought much more easily than their fractionally larger, military-style cousins.
Searching a bedroom, investigators found the entrance to an underground bunker that appeared to have been home to a marijuana grow, the ATF agent continued. The grow had been abandoned and agents surmised residents had been using the bunker as a shooting range.
Swift told police he'd moved in with Bjorkstam in April. He is alleged to have described Bjorkstam as his heroin dealer.
"(Swift) did not admit to dealing drugs, but stated that he is addicted to heroin and uses it daily," the ATF agent told the court.
Swift, whose listed height was 7 feet, 2 inches while he was in the NBA, said he helped Bjorkstam confront a dealer Bjorkstam had paid $2,000 to during a failed heroin purchase, the agent continued.
According to charging papers, Bjorkstam admitted to selling heroin from the home to "pay his bills and have enough drugs on hand to support his habit." Bjorkstam is alleged to have admitted to cutting his heroin with Coca-Cola to increase his profits.
The agent said Bjorkstam admitted to building the bunker to grow marijuana before turning it into a shooting range, and to carrying guns to protect his illicit business.
Bjorkstam explained that he was "not a big time drug dealer" and explained he started dealing heroin six months before, the Redmond officer said in court papers.
"I explained to him that he was doing this right next to an elementary school at which time he bowed his head and responded, 'I know, that's not good is it?'" the officer said in court papers.
According to police, Bjorkstam defended Swift, describing him as a "good guy" who was trying to clean up the house. By the Redmond officer's account, Bjorkstam - who had no criminal history prior to his arrest - was despondent.
"I tried to explain to Trigg that these charges were not the end of the world for him and he replied, 'It doesn't matter anymore whether I die or not, I'm not scared.'"
Bjorkstam's neighbors were scared, of him and the activities at his home.
The Redmond officer said several people thanked police for arresting Bjorkstam. One family postponed vacations out of fear that something would happen to their home if they left.
"Trigg's behavior shows that he has no concern for the safety of anyone else especially the students and staff at the elementary school just feet from away his residence and the neighbors surrounding his residence," the officer said in court papers.
Bjorkstam has been charged with possession of heroin and methamphetamine with intent to distribute as well as possession of a firearm in the furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. He is currently free on bond.
Swift had not been jailed Thursday, though a he has been ordered held on $20,000 bail. He has no criminal history.
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