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Man facing firearms charges held without bail

MEDFORD — An Oregon man who authorities fear may have been plotting a sniper attack on a high school football game was ordered held without bail Monday until he goes on trial on federal firearms charges.

A federal judge in Medford ruled that Raphael Enrique Amoroso, a 26-year-old self-employed landscaper from Grants Pass, poses a danger to his community.

Magistrate Judge Mark D. Clarke said the weapons and the books, each by themselves, did not make Amoroso a danger. But taken together — along with his arrest at age 15 for shooting a pellet gun at a passing boat filled with tourists on the Rogue River, and writing on a classroom desk at 13 that he wanted to kill teachers and students — there was enough evidence to show he posed a danger.

Amoroso was arrested on a drunken driving charge Oct. 7 after a police officer saw him drive out of a parking lot at Grants Pass High School shortly before midnight on the night of a football game.

Police found a loaded pistol, hundreds of rounds of rifle ammunition, marijuana, a camouflage jacket and a novel about a sniper attack on a football game in his car. A later search of his home turned up several guns, mostly vintage military rifles, thousands of rounds of ammunition, a military helmet, sniper manuals and other books

He now faces federal charges of having a gun on school grounds, and being in unlawful possession of a gun.

In arguing Amoroso be kept in jail, federal prosecutor Judi Harper noted that his nickname in high school was Kip Kinkel, who in 1998 killed his parents and opened fire on his high school cafeteria in Springfield, killing two students and wounding 22 others.

She said the government cannot prosecute people for "having thoughts we deem scary and evil," but that combining those thoughts with his collection of guns, books, ammunition and past behavior raises "red flags" that cannot be ignored.

"What these factors added up to for the (arresting) officer was that this guy could really hurt his community," Harper said.

While cross-examining Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Special Agent Caleb Eck, federal public defender Brian Butler noted that authorities never disclosed the title of the so-called sniper book found in Amoroso's car.

Eck said it was a novel titled, "Enemies Foreign and Domestic," which Butler noted actually was about a rogue Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent staging the sniper attack on a football game to promote a national ban on semiautomatic weapons.

Federal public defender Tonia Moro argued that Amoroso had a First Amendment right to read any book and have any thoughts he wanted, and that the guns in his home were legal.

She added that the message written on the school desk at age 13 was judged at the time to be a cry for help at a time his parents were separating and his father was being treated for cancer.