Raphel Dilligard, 34, and Zachary Edwards, 35, from Birmingham, Alabama, face multiple charges linked to the possession of a hoax explosive device, terrorist threats, and false alarm. The duo plotted to start a race war by planting a bomb outside a Trussville elementary school.
Trussville police Capt. Jeff Bridges announced Wednesday the state charges against the couple after a week-long investigation. The police department got help from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.
A mysterious 911 Call
During the investigation, Edwards said he had an association with the Black Mafia and the Black Panthers. Investigators, however, couldn’t confirm the affiliation with any of the two groups. An official from the ATF said his team thinks the individual is “very dangerous.”
Last week, multiple law enforcement agencies responded to a 911 call from a woman who said she saw a Latino male placing a strange package on a vehicle used by a school cafeteria worker. The witness described the package as a box with a timer and several wires.
One official said they knew the threat was “serious” so they responded en masse. Still, the official has never seen such an organized and rapid response. Police announced children and teachers were out of harm’s way since the device was inoperable. And even if it did work, the suspect placed it in an area relatively far from the school building.
The probe, nonetheless, led to some surprising findings. Investigators traced the 911 call to a mobile device that once belonged to Edwards. In fact, police officers found Edwards himself made the call and disguised his voice to sound feminine.
Bomb experts said Edwards or his accomplice bought the timer for the explosive device from Walmart. They first identified all 18 recent buyers and ruled out those who had a good reason to buy a stopwatch such as track coaches. In the end, they found Dilligard bought the timer from a Walmart store in Irondale without a legitimate reason. They saw her making her purchase on the store’s surveillance cameras.
Suspects Wanted a Race War and Bank Robbery
On Tuesday, the police arrested both suspects at their home on the Fifth Avenue South in eastern Birmingham. Investigators interviewed both separately. Edwards said he planted the bomb just to lure in as many police officers in the area to shoot them.
“I guess he doesn’t like cops,”
the police chief said.
Edwards admitted he had a plan B which involved keeping cops busy at the school while he was robbing a nearby bank. He dropped that plan, though. The man had hoped the response to the area would be overwhelming so he could kill as many officers as he could. His master plan was to start a race war, officers said but they declined to provide more details.
Specialists disabled the explosive device in a nearby wood. They noted it contained gun powder, but it was not in a functioning condition. Bomb experts pointed out that it had been “painstakingly put together.”
Edwards is a convicted felon. In 2000, he was sentenced to 10 years in jail for a second-degree assault but he served just two. He might now face federal charges too.
Image Source: Trussville Police Department