Bond set at $2 million for bombing suspect
BY BRIANA WIPF
GREAT FALLS TRIBUNE
GREAT FALLS, Mont.—A judge has set bond at $2 million for a man accused of trying to kill law enforcement officers in Virginia and Montana with pipe bombs.
Laurence Alan Stewart II made his initial court appearance in Montana on Friday before Judge Dirk Sandefur on three counts of attempted deliberate homicide, one count of criminal endangerment and one count of being a fugitive from justice, all felonies.
According to Cascade County Attorney John Parker, Stewart has 13 outstanding warrants in Virginia, including two counts of attempted capital murder of a law enforcement officer, as a result of bombings last week in Fredericksburg and Stafford County.
Parker asked the judge to set Stewart’s bail at $2 million because of the extraordinary nature of the charges. Sandefur agreed, saying the alleged crimes were, to his knowledge, “unprecedented in this judicial district, if not this state.”
Stafford and Fredericksburg authorities began searching for Stewart after three bombings Tuesday.
One of the homemade bombs exploded in a city residence where a Stafford deputy used to live. The others took place at the homes of a Stafford detective and Stewart’s former girlfriend, authorities said.
No one was injured, but police said the bombs posed deadly threats.
Stafford Sheriff Charles Jett said the detective and deputy were involved in an arrest of Stewart earlier this year after his then-girlfriend accused him of assault.
Stewart was arrested in Montana Thursday following a wild chase that began in the west–central part of the state. Police said Stewart fled following what started out as a routine traffic stop, tossing out pipe bombs similar to those used in Virginia.
Cascade sheriff’s Detective John Cadner testified that several “incendiary devices” seized from Stewart’s vehicle were made of galvanized pipe that appeared to contain gunpowder, nuts, drywall screws and steel ball bearings.
According to an initial complaint filed by Parker, Cascade sheriff’s officers were alerted at 11:05 a.m. Thursday by Montana Highway Patrol officers that they needed help apprehending a suspect they were pursuing.
Deputies responded and deployed stop sticks ahead of the suspect, court documents state. Stewart clipped one stick with his front passenger-side tire, but the chase continued.
According to court documents, Stewart then began to toss out bombs. However, “when the suspect threw the first pipe bomb, the deputies and officers were unaware of it since the suspect vehicle was now driving on rims and there was a great deal of smoke in the air,” the complaint states.
Two officers drove over the top of one of the pipe bombs. After the second did, the device “detonated directly behind his car,” the complaint states.
According to the complaint, another officer eventually rammed the car, and Stewart then tried to escape on foot. Three officers pursued and apprehended him about a quarter-mile away.