Aug. 24—PRINCETON — New details emerged Tuesday in the case of a local man who used magazines to make body armor, armed himself with a box cutter and brought a hoax bomb Monday into a federal building and placed another one outside a Bluefield church.
James Dean Fowler, 50, of Bluefield was arraigned late Monday evening by Magistrate Mike Flanigan on felony charges including two counts of manufacturing a hoax bomb, a count of false report of an explosive device and two counts of terrorist hoaxes, according to the criminal complaint filed by Detective-Lieutenant K.L. Adams of the Bluefield Police Department.
Flanigan remanded Fowler to the Southern Regional Jail on a $500,000 cash or surety bond.
The incident began about 8:46 a.m. Monday when officers with the Bluefield Police Department were dispatched to the Elizabeth Kee Federal Building in downtown Bluefield about a report of a suspicious person.
“Upon arrival, officers found that a U.S. Marshal on scene had detained one male subject identified as James Dean Fowler of Bluefield,” Adams said. “Mr. Fowler was found to have taped magazines to his person as makeshift body armor. Fowler was armed with a box cutter and had a black backpack which he stated contained a bomb.”
The responding officers were told that Fowler had entered the federal courthouse and asked to speak with an agent.
“When a U.S. Marshal approached Fowler, he advised that he wanted to speak with them concerning national security and that he had a bomb in his bag,” Adams said in the criminal complaint. “It was also mentioned that Fowler advised that he wanted to be heard and someone was going to listen to him today. Fowler also mentioned that he had left a second device at the Westminster Church on Washington Street.”
Bluefield police officers found a suspicious bag in the bushes beside a church entrance, Adams said.
“That bag was a large tan-colored bag laying on newspaper on the ground inside of a large bush,” he stated. “At that point both the federal courthouse and the area surrounding the Westminster Church were evacuated and sectioned off. All roads in the areas were also closed. The (West Virginia) State Police Bomb Squad was contacted to respond to the locations of the packages.”
Police learned that Fowler lived in the Hope apartment building on Washington Street. The building was evacuated and the area was closed off to the public. Officers held the areas until the bomb squad could arrive.
“Once the bomb squad arrived at the federal courthouse, a robot was used to successfully detonate the device at that location,” Adams said. “It was determined that the device appeared to be an actual bomb but was later determined to be a hoax device. The bomb squad determined the second package at Westminster Church to also be a hoax device.”
Fowler’s apartment was searched, and no devices were found, Adams said. All evidence was seized and photographed by agents with the FBI.
After being detained, Fowler was taken to the Bluefield Police Department where he was later questioned by Agent Phil Gunther with the FBI. Gunther told Adams “that Fowler had spoke about devices placed inside cellphones and seemed to suffer from some form of mental disease,” Adams stated in the criminal complaint.
“After speaking with the U.S. Attorney over this matter, the decision was made to charge Mr. Fowler at a state level,” Adams said. “At that point, Mr. Fowler was processed for charges stemming from this incident and transported to the Southern Regional Jail in Beckley WV to await arraignment.”
Manufacturing a hoax bomb has a possible prison sentence of one to 10 years in prison. False reports concerning bombs or other explosive devices carries a possible sentence of one to three years in prison. The threats of terrorist acts charge has a possible sentence of one to five years in prison.
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