Fired plant worker accused of threats

Thursday, January 10, 2002

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif. -- A man who allegedly threatened to kill his former co-workers after he was fired from a nuclear power plant was in custody Wednesday after authorities found a weapons cache that included a rocket launcher and hand grenades.

Authorities said David Reza, 43, may have been angry after losing his job as a mechanic at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station for reasons utility officials refused to disclose. The officials said the plant itself was not threatened.

Reza was arrested late Tuesday and charged with making terrorist threats, possession of a controlled substance and illegal firearms counts.

He allegedly told an acquaintance, "they have taken my job, they have taken my life ... I'll take my guns and go to San Onofre and whack a bunch of people," Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo said.

In a telephone interview from jail, Reza told the Orange County Register he did not threaten anyone.

He said he was being picked on because he is an American Indian and because of an ongoing disability dispute with Southern California Edison, which runs the power plant 65 miles south of Los Angeles.

"I was just upset and told this guy ... 'do I have to come over there and put my foot in your (expletive) to get them moving?"' he said.

Jaramillo said Reza recently voiced threats to a someone who doesn't work at the plant. The person alerted plant officials, who notified the FBI and the sheriff's office.

Deputies found 54 weapons at Reza's home and more than 250 in a San Juan Capistrano storage unit. The unit contained a hand-held, anti-tank rocket launcher, 4,000 to 5,000 rounds of ammunition and four inert hand grenades lying next to a container of explosive powder.

Two deputies were treated at a hospital after they were overcome by what officials believe was military-grade tear gas stored in an ammunition canister.

"We take every threat serious, especially those from former employees of a nuclear power plant," Amormino said. "Is the person capable of carrying out the threat? Considering we found a cache of weapons and ammunition, we think the answer is yes."

Reza said the guns found by deputies are antiques that he has been collecting since he was a kid.

"The police took a bunch of antiques," said Reza's live-in girlfriend, Kristi Mattauch. "I've called the NRA. This is just ridiculous. He didn't do anything wrong."

Reza began working at the plant in 1984 and was fired in 1995 for undisclosed reasons, Edison officials said. He was reinstated in 1998 but later went on disability leave.

He attempted to return to work in July but was fired last month for undisclosed reasons, said Ray Golden, a spokesman for Edison.

Edison said it has increased security at the plant since the Sept. 11 attacks, but the utility said Reza did not threaten the facility and did not have access to the nuclear reactor area.

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