The Associated Press
Three south Mississippi residents have been arrested after authorities found a bomb in a car at a Leakesville state prison.
Federal court papers show John Harberson, of Carriere, and Scott Jenkins Waits, 51, of McHenry, were arrested after officers at the South Mississippi Correctional Institution found a pipe bomb in a vehicle Saturday. Both men face federal charges of illegally manufacturing a firearm.
Corrections spokeswoman Grace Fisher said Robin Baker, 43, of Gulfport, was also arrested. Baker and Harberson face state charges of possessing an explosive device and possessing contraband at a prison, Fisher said.
“We don’t believe the pipe bomb was intended for the prison, nor do we believe the inmate whom they were planning to visit had knowledge of it,” said Sean K. Smith, director of the Corrections Investigation Division of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. “We are fortunate that we found the device during a routine search of the visitors’ vehicle. They never got past the secure entrance gate off the highway.”
Harberson told agents he and Waits had built the pipe bombs Friday from aluminum flashlight bodies, shotgun shells, black powder and candle wax. He said they had made a previous bomb and blown it up in a gravel pit near Waits’ home.
Harberson said he forgot the new bomb was in the car when he and Baker drove to the prison for the visit.
Fisher said a trained dog found the bomb. A search also found a machete, two knives, and tobacco in the car.
“If you’re coming to a prison, you’re going to be searched,” Fisher said.
Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Biloxi police bomb squad were called. They took the bomb away from the prison gate and “rendered the device safe.” After interviewing Harberson, federal agents arrested Waits and searched his home. They found bomb-making materials including aluminum flashlight bodies, smokeless explosive powder, shotgun shell casings, candles and tape that all appeared to be the same as those used in making the pipe bomb.
Waits told agents that Harberson had lied about his first name. Harberson later admitted to lying, saying he owed back child-support in Louisiana.
U.S. Magistrate John Roper ordered Waits held without bond Tuesday, citing Waits’ positive drug tests for marijuana and methamphetamine, the four guns and bomb-making materials found in his trailer, and lack of a job. Agents allege that Waits is known to make methamphetamine, and Harberson told agents he and Waits had consumed the drug Friday night.
Roper has scheduled a bail hearing for Harberson on Thursday.
A public defender has been appointed for Waits and Harberson. The lawyer could not be reached late Tuesday.
Baker’s status was not immediately available.