A former Granada Hills man arrested on Pentagon property this week after authorities allegedly found guns and explosives in his car is a helpful neighbor who feeds peanuts to squirrels, a relative and friend said Friday.
Anthony Premo, 29, a former security guard, moved from Granada Hills to the Washington, D.C., area two weeks ago to take a job as a Pentagon policeman. A gun enthusiast, Premo was driving with weapons in his car because he was worried that someone might try to steal the cache from his new apartment, said Jim Horwath, his uncle.
"Tony's just a square-shooting kid who got caught up in something that looks bad but isn't," Horwath said at his Granada Hills home. "He's not a terrorist or a psycho. He just didn't want to leave his guns at home."
Horwath hasn't talked to Premo since the arrest but said he remains in close contact with Premo's father in Oregon, who has talked to his son several times since Wednesday. Premo's father could not be reached for comment Friday.
Premo had passed federal security clearance and was supposed to start work as a Pentagon police trainee next week, authorities said. On Wednesday night, he was pulled over for running a stop sign on Pentagon grounds.
An officer searching Premo's blue Nissan Maxima found two rifles, two knives, bullets, a tin of black powder, freeze-dried food, a police baton and a book on how to make bombs, according to a federal affidavit. Premo allegedly told the officer he was an agent for the Immigration and Naturalization Service and flashed a badge.
Premo had worked briefly for the INS but quit in October 1998. He was a guard at an INS detention center in St. Croix, the U.S. Virgin Islands, making $473 a week, said Greg Gagne, an INS spokesman. It was unclear why he left the agency, Gagne said.
Federal officials charged him with falsely claiming to be a federal officer. He remains in custody without bond in Virginia until a detention hearing Monday.
His uncle said he was driving around the Pentagon to "check out his new job."
A neighbor on San Jose Street in Granada Hills, where Premo lived in a converted garage, said Premo grew up in the Valley and worked locally as a security guard.
Often he would see Premo feeding squirrels in the yard and cleaning gutters, said the neighbor, who asked not to be identified.
"He's not one of those weird loners who hung out by himself," the neighbor said. "He was a cool guy. He had friends. He seemed friendly to me."