An Alabama couple planted a bomb outside of an elementary school in a plot to ambush and shoot police officers to start a “race war,” police say.
Zachary Edwards and Raphel Dilligard were arrested Tuesday by the Trussville Police Department, a week after police swarmed the city’s Magnolia Elementary School when a woman saw a man place a package with wires and a timer on it on a pickup truck in the parking lot, Al.com reports.
Edwards told police he wanted to kill police officers and start a “race war,” the newspaper reports.
“I guess he doesn’t like cops,” Trussville Police Captain Jeff Bridges said.
The explosive device was disabled in the woods near the school and no one was injured. It did contain explosive powder, Dave Hyche, ATF’s assistant special agent-in-charge in Alabama, told Al.com.
“It was painstakingly put together and it also had most of what you need to make a bomb,” Hyche said.
Edwards, 35, and Dilligard, 34, are married and live in Birmingham.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. ‘He Wanted Everybody in One Place So He Could Kill Cops,’ the ATF Says
Police say the explosive device was planted at the Trussville elementary school by Zachary Edwards on November 16. They tracked him down through a 911 call they say he made to draw police to the area, disguising his voice as a woman and claiming to see have seen someone leave a bomb in the parking lot, WIAT-TV reports.
The cell phone used to make the call was registered to Edwards’ Birmingham home, police said.
Police rushed to the school and others in the city were put on soft lockdown. The device contained Play-Doh, wires, a timer and gun powder, but was missing a detonation element, police said.
“He wanted everybody in one place so he could kill cops,” ATF Special-Agent-in-Charge Dave Hyche told Al.com. “He made it clear to our guys he wanted to commit acts of violence. This arrest probably did stop something bad from happening.”
He said he was a member of the Black Panthers and Black Mafia, but police said they have not confirmed those claims.
Edwards also told police he thought about using the bomb as a diversion to rob a bank, investigators said. He told police he went to a bank after the bomb threat, but didn’t go in after seeing a patrol car in the parking lot, WIAT-TV reports.
“When the call about a suspicious package came in, we notified all of our school resource officers and told them to check the grounds at all schools for anything suspicious,” Police Captain Jeff Bridges told the Trussville Tribune. “Because we were concerned about the possibility of a diversion, we sent all available units to banks, jewelry stores or any other location that may get hit and told them to be as visible as possible. That’s why the suspect saw one of our guys in the bank parking lot.”
Hyche said the term “hoax” or fake bomb is not appropriate for the device in this case.
“The device was constructed to look like a bomb, and had the components of a bomb,” Hyche told WIAT-TV. “It disturbed us from the start.”
He told the news station he is not sure why someone would put real explosive materials in a device not designed to be detonated.
Bridges said the school may have been used as a target to draw a bigger response.
“It always seem to be a little worse if children are involved,” he told WIAT-TV. “And maybe that’s what these defendants were thinking. If you do something at a school, you’ll get more attention.”
2. Edwards Is a ‘Dangerous Person’ Who Served 3 Years in Prison for Attempted Murder & Assault, Police Say
Zachary Edwards has a lengthy criminal record, including convictions for second-degree assault and attempted murder, police say.
“My guys believe this individual to be a very dangerous person,” Dave Hyche, of the ATF, told Al.com.
He was convicted of second-degree assault and attempted murder in 2000 and sentenced to serve three years of a 15-year sentence, WIAT-TV reports.
Details of that case weren’t immediately available.
He was arrested again in 2006 and charged with attempted murder after police said he tried to kill a man with a shotgun, but he was not convicted of that charge, the news station reports.
3. Dilligard Is a Mother, Navy Veteran & Accountant Who Police Say Was Seen on Video Purchasing the Timer Used on the Device
Raphel Dilligard, who also spells her name as Ralphel Dilligard and Ralphel Edwards on social media, was seen on surveillance video purchasing the timer used on the explosive device, police told Al.com.
She has admitted to purchasing the timer and Play-Doh at a local Wal-Mart, WIAT-TV reports.
According to her Linkedin profile, she works as an accountant at HeatTrak, LLC. She was a corpsman in the U.S. Navy from 2002 to 2014, according to her profile. She graduated from Brown Mackie College-Atlanta in 2015.
Her Facebook profile shows that she is a mother of at least two daughters.
4. The Couple Is Facing Several State Charges & Could Also Be Charged in Federal Court
Edwards and Dilligard are facing several state charges. They were arrested at their home Tuesday night, and were taken to a local jail, police said.
They have both been charged with possession of a hoax destructive device, rendering false alarm, and making terroristic threats, the Trussville Tribune reports.
ATF Special-Agent-in-Charge Dave Hyche said the pair could still face federal charges.
They were being held without bail Wednesday.
“These arrests indicate the collaborative effort by federal, state and local authorities realizing that explosive related incidents are a crime of violence by placing innocent people’s lives and property in harm’s way,” Michael Knight, of the Nashville division of the ATF said in a statement. “ATF’s Frontline strategy utilizes every available resource to make our communities a safer place to live.”
5. The Arrests Come After Several Ambush Attacks on Officers Across the Country
The arrests come in the same week several police officers were shot in ambush-style attacks around the country.
In one incident, San Antonio Police Detective Benjamin Marconi was fatally shot while writing a ticket during a routine traffic stop. Police say he was targeted by the suspect, Otis McKane, because he was a police officer. McKane was arrested the day after the shooting and is facing a capital murder charge.
Officers were also shot during traffic stops in Florida and Missouri.