At the bottom of an Ithaca inlet, State Police divers found a handgun that an FBI agent said is related to the bureau’s investigation of Maximilien R. Reynolds ’19, the former Cornell student who authorities said harbored weapons and tactical gear in his Collegetown apartment.
The New York State Police Dive Team, aiding in the Reynolds investigation, searched “a specific section” of the Cayuga Inlet and pulled out “a single handgun and several unrelated long guns,” FBI Special Agent David Schutz told The Sun in a brief phone interview on Sunday. He did not elaborate on why investigators believe the gun is related to the student.
The recovery of the handgun earlier this month, which has not been previously disclosed, adds to the weapons cache discovered in Reynolds’s apartment in March, which included an AR-15 rifle, a homemade bomb, 300 rounds of ammunition and various survival gear, according to police. Prosecutors charged Reynolds with four federal crimes last month, saying he illegally purchased a gun through a friend and illegally owned a gun silencer and homemade bomb made out of a firecracker.
Reynolds, who is 20, had been on leave from Cornell since the end of the fall 2016 semester, and one of his lawyers, Raymond Schlather J.D. ’76, said last month that Reynolds “is ill” and that he intended to rely on an insanity defense. Also last month, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thérèse Wiley Dancks, who is overseeing the case, ordered that Reynolds be examined to determine if he is fit to stand trial.
About half a dozen members of the dive team searched the inlet next to Taughannock Boulevard near Cass Park for several days beginning on April 12. The Ithaca Voice published a photograph of State Police pulling a long gun out of the inlet earlier this month, which was not related to the search, Deputy Chief Vincent Monticello of the Ithaca Police Department confirmed to The Sun.
Police did not provide additional information regarding the unrelated long guns found in the inlet and it is unclear if they could be connected to other investigations.
The discovery of the handgun could complicate Reynolds’s legal case if it turns out to be his or if he played a role in its ending up at the bottom of the inlet. Derek Valgora, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said in March that Reynolds had paid a man to purchase the AR-15 and that Reynolds had told the man, identified only as A.R in court documents, that he was prohibited from purchasing a gun himself.
Earlier this month, Reynolds hired an additional lawyer, Kimberly M. Zimmer of Syracuse, to assist in the case, and a private investigator has interviewed at least one person who knew Reynolds, the person told The Sun. The FBI has also continued to interview Cornell students as the investigation continues, said a student who was interviewed. Both requested anonymity to discuss their participation in the investigations.
Asked about the discovery of the handgun, one of Reynolds’s lawyers said it “bears repeating that there were no targets, no plans and no threats.”
“Everything developed by law enforcement and the forensic experts points to a young man who, because of a mental illness, believed that he needed to be prepared to protect his friends, family and self from a dangerous world,” Schlather said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard R. Southwick — who is prosecuting the case in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York — requested earlier this month that Reynolds undergo an exam to evaluate his “insanity” at the time of the alleged crimes, an evaluation that would be in addition to the exam to determine his fitness for trial. But three days later, on April 12, the government retracted its request for that review.
“Recently, some events have occurred that suggest that this motion is premature, and we therefore withdraw the motion, reserving the right to make this request for relief at a later time, if necessary,” Southwick wrote. It is unclear if Southwick’s retraction of that request relates to the discovery of the handgun.
Earlier in April, Zimmer said in court that she and prosecutors “are currently engaged in plea negotiations, exchanging information about the facts of the case, including the defendant’s personal and mental health history, and discussing possible resolutions of this litigation.”
FBI agents and Ithaca Police raided Reynolds’s eighth-floor studio apartment in Collegetown Plaza on March 7 and said they had found the AR-15, a bulletproof vest, high-capacity magazines filled with ammunition, a gas mask, body armor, chemicals that are frequently used to manufacture explosives, ball bearings that could be used as shrapnel in a bomb, food rations, medical supplies for traumatic injuries and other survival gear.
“Collectively all of these items certainly suggest a specific recipe for large scale destruction,” Ithaca Police Chief Pete Tyler said at the time.
Prosecutors have not said why they believe Reynolds had the weapons in his apartment, but Reynolds’s friends later told The Sun that Reynolds struggled to manage a bipolar disorder and suffered from a paranoia that led him to fear that someone would hurt him or his family.
The New Jersey native had been studying at Tompkins Cortland Community College while on leave and working at a Cornell professor’s home and farm. Schlather said in court in March that Reynolds had “a huge paranoia of the world beyond him.”
Reynolds’s girlfriend told police that she was concerned about him and that he had been suffering from insomnia, manic and not taking his medications, Valgora said in an affidavit filed with the court.
Police also searched a storage unit Reynolds had rented about five miles outside of the City of Ithaca and Valgora said they found chemicals common in manufacturing homemade explosives, as well as a pyrotechnic fuse. The FBI also seized Reynolds’s laptop, The Sun previously reported.
Reynolds comes from a wealthy family in Monmouth County, New Jersey. His parents were in the courtroom for his initial appearance in Syracuse and his father, Tim Reynolds MBA ’94, earned millions as a founder of Jane Street Capital, a Wall Street trading firm.