Special agents from FBI Jacksonville arrested a man and his adult son on a criminal complaint charging them with possession and transfer of firearm silencers not registered to them in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida announced Tuesday.
Dustin Eward, 44, and Greg Eward, 24, both of Live Oak, were taken into custody Monday in previously confirmed law enforcement operations that took place in Live Oak and Lake City, according to a public affairs officer for FBI Jacksonville.
Federal prosecutors said the complaint also charges Dustin Eward with threatening to assault and murder a federal law enforcement officer.
The FBI Jacksonville public affairs officer sent this statement on Tuesday:
“On Monday, May 9, 2022, special agents from FBI Jacksonville executed court-authorized law enforcement operations in Live Oak and Lake City, Florida. We are not aware of any additional threats related to this ongoing federal investigation. We appreciate the assistance of the Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office, Live Oak Police Department, Columbia County Sheriff’s Office and Lake City Police Department, and coordination assistance from the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office. No additional information is available for release at this time.”
A massive law enforcement presence in the middle of downtown Live Oak could be seen Monday. The Suwannee County courthouse was on lockdown that day, and video taken by a bystander shows multiple agents on the scene. Jeremiah Johnson was nearby and heard two loud bangs, saying it sounded like flash-bang grenades.
“Boom and then another one right behind it -- boom,” said Johnson, who lives in Live Oak. “It’s kind of quiet around here. Like we don’t really hear or see anything like that.”
A SWAT team was there to take Dustin Eward into custody.
Greg Eward was arrested at a strip mall in Lake City in what witnesses described as a similar scene.
“I said, ‘Y’all ain’t hear that loud bang?’ I look outside and there are 20 people out there with helmets and guns,” said Jay Sebrinkley in Lake City.
According to the complaint, the Ewards are father and son who live together in Live Oak. In filings with the state of Florida, they are identified as the corporate officers of Eward Research Inc. Through their company website, the Ewards nominally market “solvent traps,” which, in actuality, are firearm silencers or suppressors, prosecutors said.
Under federal law, it is illegal for any person to receive or possess firearm silencers that are not registered to that person in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record. It is also illegal to transfer firearm silencers in violation of the National Firearms Act.
The complaint alleges that during two separate transactions in 2022, an undercover federal agent purchased a total of three firearm silencers from the Ewards. The agent communicated with Dustin Eward via an email address listed on the Ewards’ company website, and surveillance video captured Greg Eward mailing one of two packages containing silencers to the undercover agent, according to prosecutors.
The complaint also alleges that Dustin Eward has a history of threatening law enforcement officers and public officials with violence, including in posts on YouTube, a personal website, by phone and by email. On April 15, according to prosecutors, he emailed a federal agent and said, among other things, “Your actions are an act of war against all Americans, and I will respond accordingly.” According to prosecutors, he also said, “I have nothing left to lose. Arrest me? Kill me? .... Death is an upgrade. The only dream I have left is to take you with me.” Prosecutors said he further stated, “You will call off your attack, or I will defend myself the only way I have left; with maximum violence.” He concluded the email, by saying, “I’m willing to die in this fight. Are you? I will not submit to satanic traitors,” prosecutors stated.
This case was investigated by the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Live Oak Police Department, the Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office, and the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.
If convicted on all counts, Dustin Eward faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and Greg Eward faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison.