Asheville federal building evacuated due to bomb hoax, suspect arrested ***UPDATED***

The federal building in downtown Asheville was evacuated around noon today, June 21, due to a suspicious package with a “cryptic note” directed at federal law enforcement agencies. Asheville Police Department officers blew the package apart with high-powered water and a blank round. The APD has arrested Ernest McDonald, 66, in connection to the hoax.

Initiall, APD representatives would not identify the suspect. At 6:06 p.m. Tuesday evening, June 21, they announced the arrest of McDonald, who was charged him with perpetrating a hoax “by use of a false bomb or other device.” McDonald, whom the APD claims had sent notes to a number of banks in the area, is currently in the Buncombe County jail under a $20,000 bond.

The package was a paper bag with clothes and “components of a possible device,” placed beside a column near the building’s back door. After APD officers arrived and were briefed by U.S. Marshals and building security, they blocked off surrounding streets. At first the building was under a voluntary evacuation, though all employees were later told to leave, according to evacuees at the scene.

Just after noon, the bomb squad used a disruptor — a “glorified shotgun” consisting of high-pressure water and a blank round, Welch explained — to blow the package apart, after an X-ray of the package failed to rule out that it might contain explosives. The sound resembled a detonation. Shortly afterwards the streets were re-opened and employees re-entered the building.

“We’ve actually seen a similar note from an individual doing this around downtown. This one was a little more directed,” Welch told Xpress. “He’s done similar acts downtown, and this one has risen to the level of a hoax device. Once we’ve located and interviewed him, we’ll move forward with charges.”


APD Lt. Wally Welch talks to press.

The note was directed at federal law enforcement agencies, and both the FBI and ATF have offices in the building. The APD has notified both organizations, which will conduct their own investigations, said Welch. Federal charges may be forthcoming.

— David Forbes, senior news reporter
Photos by Jonathan Welch

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7 thoughts on “Asheville federal building evacuated due to bomb hoax, suspect arrested ***UPDATED***

  1. “The APD has an unidentified suspect and is currently trying to locate and apprehend him.”

    This sentence sets my teeth on edge.

  2. Oh, how I hate to post twice in a row…

    So, the AC-T has this nugget, “[i]Welch decline to name the suspect until he is located.”[/i]

    We’ll skip for a minute the fact that they, apparently, also use spell check in place of a proper copy editor and focus on the funny part: Unless there’s more than one person wandering around town leaving these little love notes, don’t they already know police are looking for them?

  3. Barry Summers

    Poor old dude is looking to be locked up. “Three hots & a cot” as they say. Back in December, he wandered away from an assisted living center in Columbia SC, & turned up three days later at a VA hospital in Tampa.

    http://www.rcsd.net/media/dec10/12-13-mcdonald.html

    Like the truck driver in Charlotte that held up a bank for $1 so he could get healthcare.

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2011/06/1-bank-robbery-doesnt-pay-off-for-healthcare-hopeful.html

    Or the 83 yr-old greeter at WalMart who robbed the place in March just so he could get arrested? We’re gonna keep seeing this. We should be ashamed, as a the richest country in the world, this is what people have to do to stay alive…

  4. [b]We should be ashamed, as a the richest country in the world, this is what people have to do to stay alive… [/b]

    Yes, we should be, but being plugged into twitter and having to update our status on facebook every twelve minutes certainly keeps us from having to feel much of anything.

  5. dpewen

    Our government keeps eliminating mental health care so this type of thing should not surprise anyone!

  6. brebro

    Thank got home-made pudding was not involved, or they would have called out the bomb robot!

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