AG Shapiro: Two Charged For Possession of Illegal Explosives in Philadelphia

October 29, 2020 | Topic: Criminal

Van Transporting Explosives Discovered by Philadelphia Police During Ongoing Unrest

HARRISBURG—Attorney General Josh Shapiro this evening announced broad law enforcement cooperation leading to charges against two suspects for possessing numerous illegal explosives. The explosives were being transported in a van that was identified and followed by investigators in Philadelphia on Wednesday, October 28.

“These individuals who have been charged today tried to use a message of justice to provide cover for their own gain,” said Attorney General Shapiro. “This is an incredibly challenging time for communities in Philadelphia, across Southeast Pennsylvania, and around the country. We will not allow criminals to hijack, and take advantage of, lawful protests as an opportunity to sow chaos.”

While responding to a commercial burglary alarm on Wednesday evening, Philadelphia Police Department officers observed a group of 10-15 staged vehicles in the City Avenue Marriott parking lot. Officers then witnessed the group of vehicles suspiciously leave the parking lot, as a unit, once police arrived at the scene. Officers pursued the fleeing convoy of vehicles after they first attempted to unsuccessfully ram a Target parking lot barricade at 4000 Monument Road. They were then followed down I-76 toward Center City and ultimately the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. One of the vehicles, a conversion van, pulled over and the driver removed tape that had been covering the license plate. Officers then stopped the vehicle at 18th and the Parkway and the suspects were removed from the van.

“Possessing illegal explosive devices presents great danger to the general public, first responders and all citizens alike,” said Matthew Varisco, Special Agent in Charge of ATF’s Philadelphia Field Division. “Thanks to the outstanding work of the investigative agencies involved to include the Philadelphia Police Department Bomb Squad and the Attorney General’s Office, unimaginable criminal acts were undoubtedly prevented. ATF remains steadfast in our mission to work with our local, state and federal partners to protect the community from those who seek to harm it.”

A search of the van by the Philadelphia Police and the ATF, revealed that the driver, Brian Larue, and passenger, Eric Murray, were transporting illegal explosives that bear the street vernacular “quarter or half sticks of dynamite,” a handheld propane tank torch, a taser and various tools including: electric drills, bolt cutters, and machetes. These explosives were examined and verified by a Police Detective Bomb Technician and an ATF Certified Explosives Specialist. Police officers made arrests and took the two defendants into custody.

The explosives and tools recovered in the van are commonly used to attempt to dismantle and steal proceeds from ATMs. There have been at least thirty ATM bombings in Philadelphia in the last four days.

Thursday evening, Murray and Larue each received three felony charges, including: possession of weapons of mass destruction, conspiracy, and risking a catastrophe, along with several misdemeanor charges. The investigation is ongoing.

Attorney General Shapiro acknowledged the brave and crucial work of the ATF, Philadelphia Bomb Squad and the initial contact handled by Philadelphia Police officers from the 19th District.

The case will be prosecuted by Deputy Attorney General Tracie Gaydos. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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