Minnesota man sentenced for machine gun, grenade purchases

A Savage, Minnesota man has been sentenced to more than six years in prison after authorities say they were tipped off by concerned citizens about his "pro-mass shooting" statements, and his intention to buy both auto sears for machine guns, and hand grenades.

River William Smith, 21, was sentenced to 80 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for illegal possession of auto sears which are used to convert a semi-automatic weapon into a machine gun, and the attempted possession of hand grenades, according to an announcement made by U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger on Tuesday.

According to court documents, on Sept. 22, 2022, the FBI received tips from a concerned citizen who reported disturbing behavior by Smith while at a firearm range.

According to the report, the former police officer and SWAT commander noticed Smith set up multiple targets and barricades made of plywood, then lying on the ground and conducting multiple rapid-fire shooting drills.

The manager of the gun club, located in Prior Lake, also reported he was dressed in all-black tactical clothing and a full-face "Punisher" mask.

In November 2022, a confidential source told authorities that they began exchanging messages with Smith on social media, during which he said he practiced shooting, "in armor and a helmet cause that’s how I’d shoot if I was really in combat." He also claimed he was preparing for a violent exchange with police, and stated he was "pro-mass shooting" while maintaining an "intense dislike of minorities, Jewish individuals and homosexuals."

Throughout continued online messages, investigators say he sympathized with the Parkland school shooter and discussed learning about his "enemy" by watching police bodycam shootings online.

According to court documents, during a taped conversation with another informant at the gun club on Nov. 17, 2022, Smith asked for auto sears to convert his AR-15 style rifle and his Glock handgun into fully automatic machine guns, later providing a down payment of $120 for the purchase.

On Nov. 28, 2022, Smith also asked if the informant knew about M67 fragmentary grenades, saying he wanted three hand grenades to outfit his tactical vest. He later provided a $200 down payment for the three grenades, or "little green apples," priced at $250 each.

According to court documents, on Dec. 14, 2022, law enforcement monitored a meeting between Smith and the informant, at which he took possession of three auto sears and three hand grenades in exchange for $690 in cash. He was then placed under arrest.

Smith pleaded guilty on May 16, 2023, to one count of possession of a machine gun. The case was the result of an investigation conducted by the FBI and the Savage Police Department.

Previously, on Dec. 31, 2019, officers from the Savage Police Department had been dispatched to Smith’s grandmother’s home, where he was residing at the time after he had fired an AK-47-style rifle into the door of a room that she had been in.