Oldsmar man had explosive device near January 6 anniversary rally in Pinellas, sheriff says
A 22-year-old Oldsmar man was arrested early Friday morning after he was found with a homemade explosive device near the site of an anniversary rally on January 6, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
Garrett James Smith was arrested on charges of making and possessing a destructive device and vagrancy. He remains in jail on $ 300,000 bail.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Smith was seen running away from a political assembly supporting an Oath Keeper arrested on the evening of Jan.6, 2022.
Smith did not detonate or place the explosive device he made. Gualtieri said Smith did not cooperate and the sheriff’s office was unsure why he had abandoned his plan or what his political beliefs were.
“Smith is what we call a sleeper, and they are the individuals of most concern because there is no way to step in and thwart their criminal activity before they actually take action,” Gualtieri said.
The January 6 anniversary rally was held in support of Jeremy Brown, a Tampa member of the far-right extremist group Oath Keepers and a former member of the U.S. Army Special Forces. Brown was arrested after participating in the riot on Capitol Hill, where he was pictured in tactical gear.
Federal agents who searched Brown’s home found a sawed-off shotgun, a short-barreled shotgun, hand grenades and more than 8,000 rounds.
The Thursday night event took place outside the Pinellas County Jail on North 49th Street and brought together political speakers including Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Howey-in-the-Hills and Brown himself. even, who called to speak from prison.
Speakers at the rally accused the federal government of taking political prisoners from the Tories who surrendered to Washington, DC on January 6 last year.
Smith was found across the street in a parking lot near the Pinellas County Courthouse, adjacent to 144th Avenue North and 46th Street North. Two MPs spotted him as he ran east from the rally, dressed in black with a hood covering his face, and arrested him for vagrancy.
When MPs searched a black backpack Smith had, they found a pipe-type homemade explosive device, Gualtieri said. Sheriff’s deputies found a piece of paper titled “Direct Action Checklist,” where Smith made a list of clothing, armor, and gear to bring, including listed items such as a helmet. and goggles, gas mask, duct tape and flammable rags.
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In his backpack, they also found a helmet with a logo that had been seen at other protests in cities like Portland, where Smith had spent time, Gualtieri said.
In the affidavits, the detective who made the arrest, in the “aggravating / mitigating” section of the report, notes “Antifa” and asks for a high bond. In one of the reports, the detective wrote “Antifa / Anti gov / Extrem”. However, Gualtieri said it was too early to say which group Smith might be affiliated with. The sheriff’s office has not found any prior information on him and is cooperating with the FBI on the investigation.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and FBI Tampa technician confirmed it to be an active explosive device, Gualtieri said. MPs evacuated protesters from the area around 7.45 p.m., then took out K9s and a heat-sensitive helicopter to search the area.
MPs obtained a search warrant for Smith’s house, where they found another pipe explosive, along with hand grenade-style explosives, nails and duct tape, according to the sheriff’s office.
On the evening of the protest, Gualtieri said there were undercover detectives at the rally. There were also unrelated traffic controls along the Bayside Bridge, which Gualtieri says resulted in a lot of patrol cars.
“Did it affect him and maybe a reason he didn’t cross the street?” I don’t know, ”Gualtieri said.
The arrest was Smith’s first. He turned 22 on January 6.