The man arrested at Los Angeles International Airport with a trunk full of guns and nearly 1,000 rounds of ammunition said Saturday that he is a law-abiding weapons enthusiast who had no idea he might be breaking the law.
A day after he was arrested for suspicion of felony transportation of an assault rifle, Phillip Dominguez said he's confident he'll be exonerated.
"I'm a law-abiding, taxpaying gun enthusiast. I have no felonies — up until now," Dominguez said.
Airport police saw it a little differently.
"In the post-Sept. 11 (2001) environment, it is well-known by weapon owners that airports and weapons simply do not mix," said Los Angeles Airport Police Chief George Centeno.
"He just made a very bad decision, and should not have been carrying those weapons," airport police Sgt. Jim Holcomb said on Friday. A call to an airport police spokesman seeking further comment Saturday was not immediately returned.
Dominguez, 47, of Orange, said he went to the Los Angeles airport to pick up a friend from Baltimore on Friday. They intended to go target shooting at an outdoor range in San Bernardino County.
As Dominguez entered the airport's ring road, his truck was pulled over for inspection. Dominguez says he knew police would want to look inside the locked cover of the truck bed so he got out, opened it and declared that he had firearms there.
Dominguez said he had 16 pistols, including an 1858 black-powder Army revolver. He also had five rifles — one of them an assault-style rifle — and nearly 1,000 rounds of ammunition.
Dominguez said he didn't think he was breaking any laws since all the weapons and ammunition were in separate, locked boxes. At least half a dozen times since Thanksgiving, Dominguez said he made similar stops at the airport carrying his guns and never saw a police checkpoint.
He showed officials the paperwork proving the assault rifle was registered and gave them the keys and combinations of all the lockboxes, he said.
Dominguez said he was handcuffed, taken to a jail, and held for six hours before he was booked. He was released after his family posted $50,000 bail. But his guns and his truck were confiscated.
He faces a Feb. 6 arraignment.
Dominguez, who owns a construction company — as well as about 80 guns — says he doesn't blame airport authorities for stopping his truck for inspection. But he believes security should be looking for ex-felons and bank robbers. And he intends to fight.
"I'm contacting their worst nightmare — an attorney," he said.
Dominguez' lawyer, Bruce Colodny, said it's true that carrying weapons at airports is a sensitive subject but "there's nothing sinister about this. Despite the fact they're controversial, assault weapons continue to be lawfully possessed."