IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa man has been charged with making and placing a pipe bomb that was recently found by a young girl in a Des Moines suburb, but investigators do not believe he’s linked to a bomb that was left at a nearby polling place in March.
Agents looking into the explosive devices discovered in Ankeny, a fast-growing city of about 70,000, have found no connection between the two, said John Ham, a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“At this point, there is nothing to indicate that the two are related,” Ham said.
On Friday, ATF agents arrested 46-year-old husband and father Chad Allen Williams after searching his home in the neighboring suburb of Johnston. Around a workbench in his garage, they found materials used to construct the bomb found in the middle of an Ankeny residential road June 9, including fireworks, a spool of fuse, a bottle of vehicle lubricant, zip ties, screws, nuts and metal wall anchors, according to charging documents.
Williams told investigators in an interview that he made the bomb by filling the vehicle additive bottle with BBs and metal items and taping it to two firework shells, according to an affidavit signed by an ATF special agent. He said he hid the bomb in a cardboard box to conceal the device, lit the fuse and dropped it in the middle of Waywin Drive in Ankeny in the dark late June 8 or early June 9, according to the affidavit.
Williams said he did not see or hear the device explode, and assumed he ran it over with the back wheels of his vehicle.
The next morning, an 8-year-old girl playing outside her home discovered the device and her mother called police. Agents with the Iowa Fire Marshal’s Office disarmed the explosive without setting it off.
Williams has been charged with making and possessing an unregistered explosive device and ordered jailed in Polk County pending a detention hearing next week. A judge ruled Tuesday that Williams qualified for a lawyer at public expense, even though records show he and his wife recently moved into a new home they purchased in April for $403,000. Federal public defender Joe Herrold, who is representing Williams, didn’t immediately return a message.
Residents within one block of where the device was found had reported hearing loud explosions on April 2, May 12 and June 7. The Ankeny Police Department said in a press release the investigation of Williams involved “the placement of several explosive devices” on Waywin Drive, but the criminal complaint against Williams does not make mention of any prior incidents or explain any potential motive.
Ankeny Police Chief Darius Potts said the other explosions were still under investigation.
Investigators are also still looking into who is responsible for the six- to eight-inch pipe bomb found March 2 outside an Ankeny polling place, about two miles away from where the bomb was found June 9.
A couple walking their dog found the device in grass outside the Lakeside Center, a city banquet hall that was serving as a polling place for a special election related to school funding. The discovery led to the temporary evacuation of the polling place, which reopened a few hours later. It remains unclear how long the device had been at the center and whether its placement was related to the election.
The state fire marshal’s office also disarmed that bomb, and said later that it could have caused major damage had it detonated. Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald has described that device as a metal piece with two end caps.