Wednesday, June 19, 2024

UPDATE: Investigators classify IED explosion near CW as criminal

Multiple federal agencies are investigating an improvised explosive device that detonated near Merchants Square Thursday night. (Steve Roberts Jr./WYDaily)
Multiple federal agencies are investigating an improvised explosive device that detonated near Merchants Square Thursday night. (Steve Roberts Jr./WYDaily)

Update 9 p.m. Friday: 

A police investigation that began after an improvised explosive device detonated near Merchants Square Thursday night has resulted in the arrest of a 30-year-old Gloucester man.

Stephen Powers of Gloucester, Va., was arrested at his home by the Williamsburg Police Department Friday and has been charged with possession of using an explosive device and committing an act of terrorism, according to a department press release. FULL STORY HERE. 

Update 6 p.m. Friday:

Francis Street reopened between South Boundary Street and South Henry Street around 6 p.m. Friday evening, according to a Williamsburg Police Department news release.

Update 4:30 p.m. Friday: 

Williamsburg Police and other investigating agencies believe an improvised explosive device detonated Thursday near Berret’s Seafood is an isolated incident.

In a City of Williamsburg news release, officials said the police department will be taking additional precautions to protect those attending William & Mary homecoming and visitors to Colonial Williamsburg.

Those in and around Colonial Williamsburg Friday, Saturday and Sunday may see an increased police presence in the area, the release said.

Update 3 p.m. Friday:

Williamsburg Police Department spokesman Maj. Greg Riley confirmed Friday afternoon that agencies looking into a detonated IED near Colonial Williamsburg are considering the investigation criminal.

Riley said investigating agencies were still on scene around 3 p.m.

Riley said he could not confirm whether law enforcement had any suspects or persons of interest in the incident.

Previously:

As police investigate an improvised explosive device that detonated near Merchants Square Thursday night, other parts of Williamsburg are also on high alert.

Matthew Whaley Elementary School went into a soft lockdown Friday morning after a passerby reported a possible explosive device in a parked vehicle near the school, Williamsburg Police spokesman Maj. Greg Riley said.

After investigating, police discovered there was no threat and that the alleged device was actually three propane tanks used for cooking, Riley said.

The school went into a soft lockdown around 10:15 a.m. and was released from the lockdown around 11:25 a.m. During a soft lockdown, instruction and activities inside the building continue as normal, but no staff or students are allowed to leave the building and building doors are locked, Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools spokeswoman Betsy Overkamp-Smith said.

Since Friday is an early release day, dismissal will occur as planned at 1:30 p.m., Overkamp-Smith said.

There was still heavy police presence around Colonial Williamsburg at 11:30 a.m. Friday, as multiple agencies investigated the IED that detonated near Berret’s Seafood around 5 p.m. Thursday, Riley said. Francis Street was closed between South Boundary Street and South Henry Street as police investigated.

Williamsburg Police and fire units were originally called to the parking lot, located at the intersection of South Boundary and Francis streets, for a report of a vehicle fire. When units arrived, they found a fire near a vehicle in the center of the lot, but the vehicle itself was not on fire or damaged, Riley said.

There were no other injuries or property damage, according to police. Riley said he could not release the specifics of the device nor what explosive material was used to ignite it.

Police are still looking into whether the incident is related to foreign or domestic terrorism, but do not have information to indicate “one way or the other,” Riley said.

Riley added he could not comment on if police have any suspects or persons of interest in connection with the IED.

Investigating agencies include the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Williamsburg Fire Department, Colonial Williamsburg Security and the Virginia State Police. Newport News Police have left the scene, Riley said.

ATF is on scene because they have “expertise in that particular area,” he added.

The area around Colonial Williamsburg was still bustling around 11:30 a.m. as multiple agencies investigate the IED that exploded near Berret’s Seafood. (Steve Roberts/WYDaily)
The area around Colonial Williamsburg was still active with police around 11:30 a.m. Friday as multiple agencies investigate the IED that exploded near Berret’s Seafood. (Steve Roberts/WYDaily)

Each agency has specific roles in the investigation, some of which overlap with each other, but Riley said he could not release further information on the type of tasks assigned to each agency.

Riley did not have an estimate for how long investigators will be on scene.

Both Colonial Williamsburg and the College of William & Mary made public statements to the community Friday about the incident.

The Berret’s parking lot where the explosion occurred is owned by Colonial Williamsburg, according to online property records for the City of Williamsburg.

“We are all relieved that no one was hurt in yesterday’s explosion,” Colonial Williamsburg Foundation spokeswoman Anna Cordle said Friday. Cordle added Colonial Williamsburg is assisting law enforcement in their investigation.

“The safety of our guests, employees and members of the community is our top concern,” Cordle said. “And while we don’t disclose or discuss the security policies in place, we continuously review and update them to ensure that our employees and guests have a safe and enjoyable experience at CW.”

William & Mary Police Chief Deborah Cheesebro sent a message to the campus community Friday stating the IED detonated in close proximity to campus, but there is no indication of any ongoing threat. William & Mary Police were one of several agencies to respond to the scene of the explosion Thursday.

A City of Williamsburg tweet states William & Mary homecoming activities this weekend will proceed as scheduled.

Berret’s Seafood tweeted that they would open at 4 p.m. Friday.

If anyone has any information on the incident they are asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP or the Williamsburg Police Department at 757-220-2331.

Related Coverage:

Police: Improvised explosive device detonated near Colonial Williamsburg

Police investigate possible explosive device near Colonial Williamsburg

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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