A convicted felon who claims to be a member of the Black Panthers—the same group splinter of black bationalists who’s members carried out ambushed of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge as part of the Black Lives Matter movement—has been arrested in Alabama after placing a gunpowder-based device outside an elementary school in an effort to lure cops into an ambush.
A convicted felon who claims he wanted to shoot cops is behind bars in connection with the explosives device planted outside of a Trussville elementary school.
Authorities today announced state charges against 35-year-old Zachary Edwards and 34-year-old Raphel Dilligard, both of eastern Birmingham. They are charged with possession of a hoax destructive device, rendering false alarm and making terrorist threats, said Trussville police Capt. Jeff Bridges.
The warrants were issued this morning after the week-long probe by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Trussville police, the Alabama State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.
Edwards claimed to be a member of the Black Panthers and the Black Mafia, but authorities have not yet confirmed his reported associations with any organized group. “My guys believe this individual to be a very dangerous person,” said Dave Hyche, ATF’s assistant special agent in charge in Alabama.
Lawmen responded en masse to Magnolia Elementary School on Wednesday, Nov. 16, after they received a 911 from a woman who reported seeing a Hispanic male place the package on a pickup truck that belonged to a school cafeteria worker. The package was a box with wires and timer attached.
“When we first saw what we had, we knew this was something to take serious and we put on the full-court press. It disturbed us from the start,” Hyche said. “I’ve never seen such a well-orchestrated and rapid response.”
Hyche today said the children and staff weren’t in any danger from the device, and even if it had been in working condition, it was on the far side of the school where there was no glass.
Once brought in for questioning, both gave confessions. Edwards admitted to planting the device, and said his plan was to get all police officers and first responders in one place so he could shoot them. “I guess he doesn’t like cops,” Bridges said.
Edwards also talked of using the incident as a diversion so he could commit crimes elsewhere – such as robbing a bank – while the police were tied up at the elementary school, but backed out of that plan.
“Probably because of the overwhelming response to the area,” Hyche said. “He wanted everybody in one place so he could kill cops. He made it clear to our guys he wanted to commit acts of violence. This arrest probably did stop something bad from happening.”
He discussed starting a race war, but authorities didn’t elaborate on what he said.
The device – which was disabled in nearby woods – did contain gun powder. “It was painstakingly put together and it also had most of what you need to make a bomb,” Hyche said. He said, however, that there was no way the device could have detonated, but he didn’t elaborate.
Edwards apparently chickened-out of his planned ambush when officers arrived en masse to the scene, immediately outgunning him.
He and his girlfriend will face state charges, and may face federal charges as well.