A Huntington Beach dove handler pleaded not guilty Friday to a felony count of making criminal threats against a man who had hired him to supply doves for a funeral.
The charge stemmed from a dispute between Mitchell Ralph Todd, 51, and a Laguna Beach man who contracted Todd’s company, OC Doves, to fly the birds at his son’s funeral Nov. 10, according to Laguna Beach police spokesman Jim Cota.
The funeral ran longer than planned and the doves were not released, resulting in a disagreement over what the company should be paid.
The contract stated that “if payment wasn’t made and the act wasn’t performed, aka the releasing of doves, then there was a $1,000 fee attached or something that was kind of ridiculous,” Cota said.
When the client didn’t pay, he received phone threats the next day that “people were going to come after him” and was told that “maybe you belong or need to go to where your son went,” Cota said.
A voicemail included only the sound of someone sliding the rack of a firearm to engage it, police said.
The OC Doves website features a lengthy page of policies, including that payment for services must be made within 15 minutes of arrival at the event and, in the case of a funeral, before the casket is removed from a vehicle. Failure to pay on time carries a $1,000 penalty — more than the cost of releasing 90 birds, the most expensive service listed on the website.
Police served a search warrant Nov. 27 at Todd’s home in the 15000 block of Cambay Lane in Huntington Beach and said they found 57 firearms, including handguns, “older-style weapons,” Glocks, rifles and some resembling semiautomatic weapons and featuring high-tech components such as scopes costing thousands of dollars. Only 12 of the firearms were registered to Todd, police said.
When police entered the home, they were aware that Todd had several firearms registered to him, and they had a gun restraining order, which allows the temporary removal of firearms from people authorities believe pose a danger to themselves or others.
“I don’t even know of any gun dealers that have 50-plus guns,” Cota said. “Even a collector would have them in one room and dressed up. These were not.”
Along with the firearms, police said they found nearly 30,000 rounds of ammunition, more than 100 ammunition magazines, a practice bomb, body armor, swords, Nazi and Confederate flags and a photo of Adolf Hitler in the home, which Todd lives in with his wife.
Police said firearms were strewn throughout the home; some were locked in safes.
Police also found more than 200 doves at the residence.
Todd’s home is across from a school; California law prohibits possession of a firearm within 1,000 feet of school grounds.
If convicted of the charge against him, Todd could face up to three years in state prison. He is scheduled to be back in court Feb. 4.
Sclafani writes for Times Community News.