Bombs found at two Beauregard churches

| July 3, 2009

DERIDDER — Four men, ranging in age from 17 to 21, have been jailed in connection with the discovery of two homemade bombs at two churches Thursday.

Beauregard Parish Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Joe Toler said the arrests came early Thursday after deputies responded to a suspected burglary at Three Pine Apostolic Church on La. 112, outside of DeRidder.

Toler said the four young men — Nathan Lee, 17, of Rosepine; Sidney Fletcher, 21, of DeRidder; Timothy Free, 18, of DeRidder; and Anthony Martin, 17, of Rosepine — had been seen taking musical and audio equipment out of the church.

Toler said two men were spotted by a witness leaving the church and were arrested by DeRidder police. He said the other two men were arrested by deputies on the scene.

Toler said that during deputies’ investigation, a pipe bomb was discovered in the church’s lobby.

“The four had taken some items from a fireworks stand and some other things that they added that I can’t go into, and they compacted all of this inside a metal flashlight. The flashlight is similar to ones that deputies carry,” Toler said.

Toler said state police responded to the scene and that a bomb technician detonated the device, which was retrieved using a specialized robot recovery vehicle.

“According to the guys that were on the scene, it was a pretty powerful explosion,” Toler said.

DeRidder police Lt. Shane Fruge said that later Thursday morning a second bomb was found at Grace Church on West First Street in DeRidder.

The bomb, he said, appeared to have been detonated before it was discovered. The men are believed to have manufactured that bomb as well.

“They had lit a bomb via fuse and had it placed right next to the building where the window units were,” he said.

Fruge said there were no injuries as a result of the blast, but that a church window was broken. He said the bomb was similar to the one found at Three Pine Apostolic Church, but appeared to have been built in an insulated cup, rather than a flashlight.

Fruge said nothing appeared to have been taken from the church. “They just lit the device and left,” he said.

All four men have been charged with aggravated burglary; theft; manufacture and possession of a bomb; simple arson of a religious building; and criminal conspiracy to commit simple arson.

As of Thursday, no bond had been set for any of them.

Fruge said additional charges are pending against the men, who are also suspected in a string of burglaries in Vernon Parish, including ones at a church and a snack company.

“They confessed to other crimes,” Fruge said.

He said that when asked why they placed the bombs, one replied, “Boredom.”

As of press time Thursday, no other pipe bombs had been discovered, though Sheriff Ricky Moses had advised ministers to check their churches.

“We’ve conducted an extensive search and have not found anything else,” Toler said.

Police Chief John Gott said his officers also spent most of Thursday, checking the perimeters of churches.

“We did a run-through to make sure everything was OK, and nothing was found,” he said.

Moses said anyone locating a suspicious device is advised to call the Sheriff’s Office by dialing 911 or 463-3281.


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Category: Church Security

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