By Dan Nienaber
Free Press Staff Writer
NORTH MANKATO — Investigators are reporting a convicted felon, who was arrested while his North Mankato house was searched for guns and drugs Sunday, was concerned about a temporary loss of government order and wanted the guns to defend his family and neighborhood.
A North Mankato police officer contacted an agent with the Minnesota River Valley Drug Task Force on Jan. 10 to pass on a report about a man with numerous guns who was using and selling drugs.
The officer had received an anonymous tip saying 29-year-old Michael Donald Caya was “using methamphetamine and acted ‘crazy,’” according to a criminal complaint filed in Nicollet County District Court Wednesday. The person also told the officer he or she was concerned about Caya’s wife, Cherith, and two young children.
Drug task force agents had run across Caya’s name before during a drug and gun investigation, the complaint said. They had searched a residence at the Eagle Lake Mobile Home Park in September after receiving a tip that methamphetamine and several guns without serial numbers were there. Several people were arrested for methamphetamine possession, but no guns were found.
One of the people arrested later told investigators that Caya had left the residence with a box of guns before investigators had arrived. That person also told a task force agent that Caya traded guns for drugs and cash, and that he had purchased methamphetamine and marijuana from Caya.
A task force agent met garbage collectors in Caya’s North Ridge neighborhood the morning of Jan. 18, the complaint said. They went to the front of Caya’s split level house on the Robin Court cul-de-sac and removed six bags of garbage from a container at the end of the driveway. Straws with white residue, which were found in the bags and allegedly tested positive for methamphetamine, were used to justify Sunday’s search.
Law enforcement officers from several agencies met at the North Mankato Police Department before the search. They decided to take Caya into custody when he arrived at the Dotson Company foundry in Mankato for work.
Caya’s wife and children were the only people at the house when law enforcement officers arrived, agents reported. There was drug paraphernalia, gun magazines and weapons lying around the house, within reach of the children, but Cherith Caya said she didn’t know anything about guns and drugs, the complaint said.
A suitcase on a floor in the living room of the house allegedly had four handguns, gun magazines and ammunition inside. In the same room a rifle was found in one guitar case and a rifle and shotgun were found in another guitar case.
A handgun and two magazines, one loaded with self defense rounds, were found in the master bedroom along with three small baggies of methamphetamine and a vacuum-sealed bag of marijuana. All were accessible by the two children, who are under the age of five, the complaint said.
More methamphetamine, bags of marijuana, ecstasy pills and prescription drugs were allegedly found in a four-season porch with a whirlpool. When Caya’s vehicle was taken from the Dotson parking lot and searched, another rifle was found. In all, investigators reported finding nine guns.
Caya, who was placed on 20 years of probation for a 2006 felony drug possession conviction in Watonwan County, was interviewed by a task force agent at the Nicollet County Jail Monday. He allegedly told the agent he thought the world was coming to an end and he thought he had to protect his family and neighbors from the government, the complaint said. Caya said he spent between $3,000 and $4,000 for the guns, bought his methamphetamine by the ounce and bought his marijuana by the pound, the agent reported.
Caya also allegedly told the agent he had been setting up meetings with prostitutes in Mankato. He claimed he had called every escort with a Mankato link on the Backpage.com website and met them at one of two hotels in town, the agent reported. Caya denied having sex with the women, but said he would use drugs with them and talk. His plan was to identify the man in charge of the women, but he told the agent he didn’t know what he would do if he identified the man.
“(Caya) stated that, despite his drug addiction, he thought he would make a good police officer because he was a good person with good morals and ethical decisions,” the complaint said.
Caya has been charged with nine counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm, nine counts of being a felon in possession of a handgun or an assault style weapon, one count of third-degree drug possession and three counts of fifth-degree drug possession, which are all felonies. His bail was set $75,000 during his first court appearance Wednesday.