The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Bombing suspect arrested in Montana after wild chase
BY KEITH EPPS
The man suspected of trying to kill two Stafford police officers and his former girlfriend early Tuesday was apprehended Thursday afternoon some 2,000 miles away.
Laurence Alan Stewart II, 25, was taken into custody in Cascade County, Montana following a high-speed chase involving numerous officers.
During the chase, police said, pipe bombs similar to the ones that exploded at three Fredericksburg-area residences early Tuesday were thrown from the fleeing vehicle.
No one was injured, but police said at least four bombs were thrown and several exploded.
Local, state and federal authorities gathered in Stafford County on Wednesday to announce a nationwide manhunt for Stewart after accusing him of setting off bombs at three homes, two in Stafford and one in Fredericksburg.
The Fredericksburg home was the former residence of a Stafford deputy, while a Stafford detective and Stewart’s former girlfriend live in the Stafford homes.
Stafford Sheriff Charles Jett said his two employees and the woman were clearly the targets. No one was injured, but there was considerable damage to the homes.
Jett also said that police believe Stewart began planning his attacks “weeks ago.”
Stewart is charged with multiple offenses locally, including two counts of attempted capital murder of a law-enforcement officer.
His charges are likely to rise as the result of the wild scene that unfolded in Montana Thursday following what started out as a routine traffic stop.
According to Jett and other sources, a car driven by Stewart was stopped by a Montana state trooper for speeding. The officer got Stewart’s identification and returned to his vehicle to check on the driver.
The ensuing check revealed that Stewart was wanted in Virginia and the the license plates on his vehicle had been reported stolen. Police learned that the tags had been stolen from a Walmart parking lot somewhere in Montana Wednesday night.
Before the trooper could return to the car, police said, Stewart took off. Numerous state, local and federal officers were involved in the pursuit, which began at 1:15 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and ended about 1:49 p.m.
Police deployed devices designed to flatten tires several times during the chase as they avoided the explosives being thrown from suspect’s vehicle.
One of the devices eventually flattened the tires and the suspect’s vehicle ended up in a ditch.
Police said the driver got out of the car and ran while carrying a handgun. A Homeland Security helicopter monitored him as he ran along a creek bed.
There were no reports of any shots being fired before the man was taken into custody near the town of Belt.
Several schools in the area were locked down prior to Stewart’s arrest, police said.
Stewart has been wanted in Stafford for several months. He was arrested on a domestic assault charge on June 26 and failed to show up for a court hearing on that case.
He was later charged with violating a protective order against the same woman and two unrelated charges accusing him of exposing himself in the Stafford Market Place shopping center.
The Stafford Sheriff’s Office issued a press release seeking information on Stewart’s whereabouts on Oct. 9, but at that time he was only facing relatively minor misdemeanor charges.
Now he’s facing charges that could leave him with multiple life sentences.
Prior to the pipe bombing incidents, Stewart set up an Internet blog on which he claimed he has been unfairly treated in Stafford.
He had particularly harsh words for the former girlfriend and several of the officers involved in the misdemeanor cases against him.
“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. 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.”
It was not immediately clear when Stewart will be brought to Virginia to face charges here. He could be in Montana for some time depending on what charges are filed there.
Jett said police are not concerned about any potential jurisdictional tug-of-war. “We are committed to whatever will take this dangerous, dangerous person off the streets for the rest of his life,” Jett said.
Keith Epps: 540/374-5404