Police in Birmingham, Ala, arrested a couple — who claimed ties to the New Black Panther Party — on Wednesday after the pair were accused of planting a phony bomb at an elementary school in the suburban community of Trussville last week as part of a plot to start a race war.
Zachary Edwards, 35, and Raphel Dilligard, 34, of Birmingham are officially charged with making terrorist threats, rendering a false alarm and possessing a hoax destructive device, but Birmingham Police Capt. Jeff Bridges says were planning for much more, including shooting police officers investigating the bomb threat, the Associated Press reports.
“I guess they didn’t like cops,” he said.
Bridges says the couple provided a complete confession to police investigators and that they spoke of wanting to use the fake explosive as a distraction while they either ambushed police or robbed a bank. According to police, Edwards claimed he was a member of the New Blank Panthers and the Black Mafia and that he was eager to precipitate a race war, though authorities would not provide specifics on that claim.
The false alarm bomb was discovered on Nov. 16 near the Magnolia Elementary School in Birmingham. The first responding unit included members of the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
The bomb squad evaluated the device and found it to contain gunpowder, modeling clay and a timer – but it lacked a detonator. It was then disabled in nearby forest.
Alabama ATF officer Dave Hyche described Edwards as a “very dangerous person,” according to AL.com.
The police investigation focused on a 911 call alerting police to the bogus bomb threat that was made on a cell phone that police say was once owned by Edwards. A stopwatch found with the “bomb” was also linked to the couple because investigators say they examined video surveillance footage at a local Walmart and established that Dilligard purchased the item.
Hyche says the couple could still face federal charges as the investigation is continuing.