A man was found stockpiling weapons in the storage room of a Nevada children’s museum, including handguns, ammunition, and an AK-47 assault rifle. Wilbert Calhoun, who was employed as a janitor at the Children’s Museum of Northern Nevada in Carson City, was reportedly living in the space with his wife, a staffer at the museum, and at least two children.
On the evening of June 30, police were dispatched after a neighbor noticed Calhoun’s two-year-old son walking alone on a nearby road. A police report obtained by Hyperallergic says deputies discovered personal belongings, food, dishes, and sleeping bags inside the museum. When asked for the family’s home address, another of Calhoun’s children said the family lived in the museum, though Calhoun initially denied residing there.
While Calhoun was being transported to Carson City Jail, Nathan Tobey, a museum manager who was called to the scene, located several weapons in a hardware storage room next to a children’s arts and crafts space. Police also found “dozens of magazines,” knives, a baton, and firearm suppressors or “silencers,” which are legal in the state of Nevada but must be registered and meet federal regulations.
The police report notes that the hardware room was not locked and “could easily be accessed by a wandering child,” though the museum’s board told local outlet Carson Now that both the weapons and the family’s living space were located on a separate floor from the main area, behind a door that remained locked during operating hours.
Calhoun was arrested on five felony weapons charges and one gross misdemeanor of child neglect and endangerment. Both Calhoun and his wife were terminated from their employment at the museum.
Though no one was harmed, the discovery of a trove of weapons in a children’s institution that describes itself as “a play-based learning experience” unsettled members of the local community, who reportedly demanded answers from the museum’s leadership. In a July 9 statement, the museum board apologized for the incident and said they were “shocked and saddened.”
“We are looking into the best path to reopen in a way that not only assures the safety of all of our visitors, but that we as a community can be proud of as well,” the board said. The museum remains closed to the public.
The United States is in the midst of a worsening gun violence crisis that shows no signs of abating, even as Congress passed historic legislation, in part because many decisions such as enforcing so-called “red flag laws” are left up to individual states. Everytown for Gun Safety, a national nonprofit advocating for gun control, estimates that 519 people are killed and another 1,119 injured by guns in Nevada each year and rates the state as 18th in the country for gun law strength. Nevada is one of less than two dozen states that require universal background checks and enforces a law that guns be stored safely to prevent access by children.
Carson City, situated just 20 miles west of the historic Lake Tahoe on the border of California and Nevada, has a population of around 59,000 people.
The Children’s Museum of Northern Nevada has not responded to Hyperallergic’s request for comment.