The vehicle near Pine Grove Middle School that prompted evacuations on Tuesday contained an “improvised destructive device” made of cardboard and a toy car receiver, Baltimore County Police said in charging documents filed in district court.
After disabling the device, a test identified that it contained materials that in combination are “consistent with a homemade improvised explosive mixture,” police wrote.
Baltimore County Police’s hazardous devices team identified that the device’s “initiation system” involved two wires and a small wrapping of match heads, the charging documents say. It would have allowed the device to “ignite/initiate by remote control,” police wrote.
Joseph R. Vickery is charged in Baltimore County District Court with possession of an explosive or incendiary device with intent to create a destructive device and knowingly manufacturing, possessing or distributing a destructive device, along with firearm and drug offenses.
Police say the vehicle found outside of Pine Grove Middle School belonged to Vickery and was directly across from the entrance to the school. According to charging documents, he admitted to constructing an explosive device.
No attorney is listed for Vickery in online court records.
The investigation that led police to the device began with a report to Mount Airy Police about a suspect who might be trying to make a homemade explosive device. Baltimore County Police were contacted after Howard County Police tracked Vickery’s cellphone to a Rodeway Inn in Woodlawn.
Police on Tuesday evacuated two schools, searched the Rodeway Inn, where Vickery was staying, and closed roads in two areas of Baltimore County in connection with the hazardous device investigation. Officials said Tuesday that two individuals were arrested and that there was a device found in a vehicle on the campus of Pine Grove Middle School but declined to say what the device was.
Vickery’s charging documents state that he was found by Baltimore County Police around the middle school in Parkville, in northern Baltimore County. He reportedly told police there was an “explosive device inside of his vehicle,” charging documents say.
In an interview, he told police he had researched “IEDs” and constructed an explosive device, charging documents said. He said he didn’t plan to harm anyone and planned to “detonate it in a remote area.”
A woman also arrested by police on Tuesday told officers in an interview that Vickery had begun researching explosives “shortly after a falling out with her mother.”
A search of his vehicle also uncovered fertilizer, a table-top stove, tubing and handwritten bomb-making instructions, according to the charging documents.
Materials used to manufacture explosive devices were also found in the search of Vickery’s Rodeway Inn room. Police write that officers surveilling the building after getting the tip from other police officials saw a woman throwing trash away in a sidewalk receptacle.
A detective took the trash can and found receipts and items that police identified as “precursors for manufacturing explosive devices.”
The subsequent search of the room found the materials used to manufacture explosives, along with drugs and drug paraphernalia. They include a remote controlled car, medical cold packs with ammonium nitrate removed and two propane cylinders.
A woman also facing charges in district court told police the drugs and paraphernalia found in the Rodeway Inn belonged to her, charging documents said. Police say the items contained or were used for heroin. She does not face criminal charges in connection with any destructive devices.
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Mount Airy Police Chief Doug Reitz said Wednesday his department had been investigating a suspect in a theft case when an officer got information that the suspect may have been researching and purchasing materials for an explosive device. They contacted other authorities and ultimately used cell records to find his location in Baltimore County. Mount Airy is located in Carroll and Frederick counties.
“You get a small town officer someplace taking a little bit of information, something seems minor in nature, but then all the sudden turns into a major issue that has this impact regionwide,” Reitz said. “This could’ve gone horribly wrong in a different way, if authorities weren’t contacted and responded the way they did so quickly.”
Pine Grove Middle School was evacuated around noon Tuesday. Pine Grove Elementary School was evacuated about an hour and a half later.
Officials have said all children are safe. Both Pine Grove middle and elementary schools had resumed normal operations by Wednesday morning.
Detective Trae Corbin, a Baltimore County Police spokesman, said Tuesday that the department’s hazardous device team had done a “controlled” action to investigate a device found inside a vehicle on the middle school’s campus.
He said Tuesday, following that action, that there was no threat.
Baltimore Sun reporter Ngan Ho contributed to this article.