FBI Wants to Know: What Was Ryan Hagel Going to Do With All Those Guns?

The driver and wanted fugitive in the white, four-door Honda Civic were prepared for a serious battle.

Or maybe they were on the way to a black-market firearms bazaar. Or a long day at the shooting range.

All the FBI knows for sure is that Ryan Smith Hagel should not have been driving toward Phoenix on Interstate 10 last fall in a car stuffed with loaded rifles, handguns, nearly 3,000 rounds of ammunition, and advanced body armor.

Hagel's been on the run from the law since his arrest in Scottsdale in 2007 for car theft, living for the past few years in California. He and the driver, unnamed in federal court records, were headed east on November 18, 2017, when they were pulled over and jailed for a few hours by La Paz Sheriff's deputies.

The FBI charged Hagel in mid-February with being a fugitive from justice in possession of a firearm. On Wednesday, the FBI put out a news release asking if anyone knows what Hagel was up to.

"At this time, the FBI does not have information to believe there is an imminent threat," the release states. "However, in an abundance of caution, we are reaching out to the public."

The Honda's driver became "agitated" by the questions of the deputy who stopped the car in November, the FBI complaint from February says. The deputy had noticed that that the driver was wearing body armor over his shirt and that the vehicle was full of "military equipment."

click to enlarge Scottsdale police released this grainy mugshot from Hagel's arrest. - SCOTTSDALE POLICE DEPARTMENT
Scottsdale police released this grainy mugshot from Hagel's arrest.
Scottsdale Police Department
The deputy asked both driver and passenger multiple times if there were firearms in the car, and both replied that there were none. An Arizona Department of Public Safety trooper arrived as backup. The pair produced their California driver's licenses, and the law officers discovered Hagel's old warrant out of Maricopa County.

Then the law officers discovered the cache of weapons.

The car contained two "high-powered rifles," five handguns, and three sets of body armor made in Phoenix in 2017, including two sets equipped with "Level III" plates "designed to stop high-caliber rifle ammunition," records state. Hagel had a Glock 9 mm tucked into his waistband.

The pair had been driving with 2,889 rounds of ammunition, including: 928 rounds of 5.56 x 45 mm; 100 rounds of 7.62 x 51 mm; 200 rounds of .308 caliber; 1,151 rounds of 9 mm; 460 rounds of .40 caliber; and 50 rounds of .45 caliber.

The cache also contained 60 loaded rifle and handgun magazines; the complaint doesn't make it clear whether the rounds in the magazines are included in the 2,889 total. The FBI declined to answer questions about the case.

"All of the firearms were staged with fully loaded magazines near the weapons for easy access and re-loads," the complaint says.

Later, the men sat in the back of a patrol car waiting for police to tow the Honda, and a body cam left in the vehicle — accidentally, it seems — recorded some of their conversation.

Hagel made statements "that he would have rather just gotten into a shootout or have committed suicide over being in his current situation," the complaint states.

Hagel and the driver were booked into county jail on suspicion of misconduct involving weapons for failing to report the weapons when first asked. La Paz County Sheriff William Risen was out this week, his office said. A spokesman with the sheriff's office didn't return a message.

When released from La Paz County jail, Hagel acknowledged on a form that he once failed to appear in court as required, writing that, "Against my better judgment when I was 20 I moved away when I had a court appearance pending."

The driver owned five of the weapons. But as investigators later discovered, Hagel had purchased and registered two Glock handguns in California despite his fugitive status in Arizona.

Agents also found out that last August, Hagel had been stopped from buying an AR-15 from a California firearms dealer. Four days after Hagel's attempted purchase, the dealer received a letter stating in bold, underlined words, "do not release the firearm to the purchaser."

In December, the FBI interviewed Hagel's accomplice in the 2007 vehicle theft in Scottsdale, Jonathan Beaumont.

State court records show that Beaumont received probation for the crime. He told the FBI that Hagel had decided to "move back to California to avoid being prosecuted."

The FBI arrested Hagel in San Luis Obispo, California, where he's been living most recently, on February 21. Hagel was ordered to remain in federal detention. A prosecutor remarked in paperwork that he had failed to appear on the 2007 charge, failed to appear on a California traffic charge, has a "lack of stable residence" and is unemployed.

Hagel has a Twitter site still up with five followers and three football-related tweets from 2012 and — perhaps not surprisingly — a profile photo that features a skull and crossed rifles.

The FBI asks anyone with information about the allegations against Hagel to call the FBI Phoenix Field Office at 623-466-1999.
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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.