A vehicle near Pine Grove Middle School in Parkville that prompted evacuations Tuesday contained an “improvised destructive device” made of cardboard and a receiver for a remote control toy car, Baltimore County Police said in charging documents filed in district court.
After disabling the device found on the vehicle’s passenger floor, a test confirmed 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 had an “initiation system” involving 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, 43, 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 school’s entrance. According to charging documents, he admitted to constructing an explosive device.
Baltimore County Police said in a Wednesday news release that it “does not appear” the school was the intended target.
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 Monday night after Howard County Police tracked Vickery’s cellphone to a Rodeway Inn in Woodlawn.
Police evacuated two schools Tuesday, 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 around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday by Baltimore County Police near 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 later that day, according to the charging documents, he told police he had researched “IEDs” and constructed an explosive device. He told police he didn’t plan to harm anyone and planned to “detonate it in a remote area.”
A woman also arrested by police 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. Police also recovered a firearm, ammunition, drug paraphernalia and methamphetamine. Charging documents state Vickery is prohibited from possessing a firearm due to prior criminal convictions.
Materials used to manufacture explosive devices also were 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. Items recovered by police included a remote controlled car, medical cold packs 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.
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, who 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.”
The charging document narrative describes that Mount Airy Police contacted the FBI, ATF and police in Howard County, the jurisdiction where Vickery was believed to be staying. Howard County Police then contacted Baltimore County Police on Monday. Baltimore County Police began to conduct surveillance on Vickery’s vehicle at the Rodeway Inn that night.
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The search of the trash can outside the Rodeway Inn room led police to contact the agency’s bomb squad. Vickery was in police custody by 11:30 a.m. Tuesday. A team of police accessed Vickery’s vehicle and “rendered the improvised destructive device safe” around 1 p.m.
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 were safe. Both Pine Grove middle and elementary schools resumed normal operations 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.
Following that action, he said Tuesday, there was no threat.
Vickery is being held without bond, according to court records. He is scheduled for a bail review at 1 p.m. Thursday.
Baltimore Sun reporter Ngan Ho contributed to this article.