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Vermont owner of now-defunct firearms training center is arrested

FILE - Daniel Banyai, the owner of Slate Ridge, speaks to supporters, April 17, 2021, in West Pawlet, Vt., during a Second Amendment Day Picnic. Banyai, the owner of a former firearms training center in Vermont, was arrested on Wednesday, March 20, 2024 in Pawlet, Vermont, state police said. (AP Photo/Wilson Ring, File)

PAWLET, Vt. (AP) — The owner of a controversial firearms training center in Vermont, who has been in a legal battle with the town and was ordered to be arrested, was taken into custody after a struggle on Wednesday, state police announced.

Near the state's border with New York state, the Pawlet town constable encountered Daniel Banyai by an intersection on Wednesday afternoon, police said. A struggle took place and the constable was able to subdue Banyai and take him into custody, police said.

A Vermont Environmental Court Judge ruled in December that Banyai was in contempt of court for failing to completely remove all unpermitted structures on his property.

The Pawlet property, known as Slate Ridge, included multiple buildings and two firing ranges on land about the size of 30 football fields (12 hectares). After complaints from neighbors, the town attempted for several years to get Banyai to remove the structures.

Three years ago, the Environmental Court ordered Banyai to end any firearms training at the center and remove unpermitted structures and the Vermont Supreme Court rejected Banyai’s appeal.

In February 2023, a judge issued a scathing order that Banyai was in contempt of court for deliberately flouting a series of court orders issued since the start of the case. At the time he faced jail and fines that could exceed $100,000 if he failed to comply by June 23.

A judge in July ordered that Banyai be arrested until he proves that parts of the facility have been removed or demolished. The warrant then expired after 60 days without an arrest.

In early December a judge again issued an arrest warrant and Banyai had until Dec. 22 to turn himself in.

Banyai’s attorney did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment on Wednesday.

In response to Slate Ridge, a bill was passed in the Legislature making it a crime to own or operate paramilitary training camps in the state. Republican Gov. Phil Scott signed it into law in May.