A suspect with an anti-police agenda and wanted for attempted murder in Virginia is under arrest in Great Falls, Mont., after leading police Thursday on a wild 40-mile chase during which he tossed seven ignited pipe bombs into the path of pursuing officers.
Laurence Alan Stewart II, 25, is believed to have fled Stafford County, Va., on Tuesday during the height of Hurricane Sandy after separate pipe bombs exploded at the homes of a sheriff’s deputy, a detective and Stewart’s ex-girlfriend. No one was injured.
On Thursday, 1,800 miles away from where the saga began, a Montana state trooper stopped a red Hyundai for speeding on U.S. Highway 87 southeast of Great Falls. As the trooper returned to his vehicle to check the driver’s license, the fugitive’s car sped off with Montana license plates stolen the night before from a Wal-Mart parking lot.
The driver of the vehicle, later identified as Stewart, led state troopers and sheriff’s deputies from two counties on a 40-mile chase, Bradley Beyersdorf, a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, told Hatewatch today. Local schools were locked down as a squad of police cars chased the fugitive vehicle while it sped across the Montana plains.
“He tossed out approximately seven devices (pipe bombs) during this high-speed chase with police,” Beyersdorf said.
After spike strips failed to stop the vehicle, a deputy finally forced Stewart’s vehicle into a ditch.
“At that point, he gets out and runs with a handgun,” Beyersdorf said. Stewart eventually surrendered without gunfire as a Department of Homeland Security helicopter and several police officers arrived on scene.
After Stewart was arrested, a bomb squad found several more pipe bombs in his car. Beyersdorf declined to provide a more precise description of the munitions or say whether other bomb-building components were found in the vehicle.
A 40-mile stretch of the highway was closed until 4 a.m. Friday as police and evidence technicians picked up remains of the pipe bombs, some of which exploded. No one was hurt by the explosions.
“From what we know at this point, he was angry at law enforcement in Virginia for investigating him,” the ATF spokesman said. “There is no indication that he had any extremist agenda outside of his propensity for violence toward law enforcement officers.”
It’s not known why Stewart was fleeing to Montana, a state that is regarded as a haven for assorted anti-government extremists and white supremacists.
Investigators at this point also don’t know when or where the suspect built his arsenal of pipe bombs, or where he obtained plans to build them, Beyersdorf said.
Stewart is charged in Stafford County, Va., with two counts of attempted murder of law enforcement officers and two counts of arson of an occupied dwelling and one count of use of a weapon for a terrorist act. Additionally, he is charged in Fredricksburg, Va., with one count of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, firing a missile into an occupied dwelling and arson of an occupied dwelling.
He is being held in the Cascade County jail in Montana, where additional state or federal charges are expected to be filed.
Stewart was arrested on a domestic assault charge on June 26 in Stafford County, Va., and failed to show up for a court hearing on that case, the Fredricksburg News reported in today’s editions.
Prior to the bombings, Stewart set up a website and claimed he has been unfairly treated in Stafford, the newspaper reported. “He had particularly harsh words for the former girlfriend and several of the officers involved in the misdemeanor cases against him,” the newspaper account said.
“With all of the lies and dirty dealings I feel like I do not have a chance for justice,” he wrote.
“At this point, I might as well commit some crimes,’’ Stewart wrote, according to the Fredricksburg newspaper. “If I am to be blamed for wrongdoing I should at least have some fun and do whatever I want without regard. Tell a man he is something enough times and eventually even he will start to believe it.”