Unfortunately, the use of "bombs" and explosive devices is hardly a novel threat for the fire and emergency services.
I think I went to my first bombing incident, a pipe bomb at a private suburban residence, more than 20 years ago. Since then, we've seen numerous tragic events, both at home and overseas, where explosives or incendiary devices were used to kill and injure: Oklahoma City, the World Trade Center, Beirut, and on and on.
We're probably all familiar with the now-common terms: improvised explosive device (IED) and vehicle borne IED (VBIED).
TULSA, Okla. — An Illinois man suspected in a plot to firebomb dozens of Oklahoma churches last fall with Molotov cocktails is unstable and has battled bouts of mental disorders and depression throughout most of his life, his aunt said this week.
Gregory Arthur Weiler II, 24, of Elk Grove Village, Ill., is accused of planning to destroy 48 churches in northeastern Oklahoma and preparing to launch the attacks from a tiny motel he was holed up in near Interstate 44 in Miami, Okla.
"When we visited him (in jail) he was unable to finish his sentences," Weiler's aunt, Joanne Meyers, said sobbing.
A federal grand jury indictment unsealed Wednesday charges Weiler with one count of possessing an unregistered, destructive device, a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. He was arraigned Wednesday in a federal court in Tulsa and entered a not-guilty plea through his lawyer.
The attorney did not return phone messages Thursday and Friday seeking comment.
Relatives of Weiler say he has struggled with mental illness and may have stopped taking his medication before his arrest.
"We're very concerned if he realized what's happening to him," Meyers said Wednesday in a brief phone interview.
Investigators say they searched Weiler's motel room after two apartment maintenance men found a duffel bag in a rubbish bin behind the motel that contained bomb-making materials such as bottles and a gas can. Authorities say inside the room they discovered instructions on how to make Molotov cocktails and hand-drawn sketches of the churches targeted.
"The nature of the crime got federal agents involved, and that kind of weapon — an explosive device such as a bomb — is one that will initially draw in other police, specialists and investigators," said Joseph F. Wilson, criminal chief for the U.S. attorney's office in the northern district of Oklahoma, on Friday.
This week, federal marshals moved Weiler from the Ottawa County jail to a federal jail in Tulsa to await trial.
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