Police make arrest, charge Stephen Powers with terrorism for Thursday’s explosion

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October 23, 2017

8:01 PM

Police arrested Stephen Powers, a 30-year-old resident of Gloucester County, Oct. 20 and charged him with setting off an improvised explosive device in the parking lot adjacent to Berret’s Seafood.

The IED detonated Thursday, Oct. 19 at approximately 5 p.m. Shortly after the explosion, the Williamsburg Police Department received a call about a vehicle fire near the corner of South Boundary Street and Francis Street. After investigating, the WPD determined that the detonation was caused by an IED.

Once police arrived at the scene, they confirmed that no one was hurt by the explosion.

According to the WPD, Powers was arrested at his home in Gloucester Friday and charged with possessing and using an explosive device and committing an act of terrorism.

The investigation was conducted by the WPD, the Williamsburg Fire Department, Colonial Williamsburg Public Safety, the Newport News Police Department, Virginia State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

I would personally like to thank all the local, state and federal law enforcement partners who worked around the clock to quickly apprehend a potentially dangerous member of the community,” Williamsburg Police Chief Sean Dunn said in a press statement.

“I would personally like to thank all the local, state and federal law enforcement partners who worked around the clock to quickly apprehend a potentially dangerous member of the community,” Williamsburg Police Chief Sean Dunn said in a press statement.

Friday morning, College of William and Mary Police Department Chief Deb Cheesebro sent out a campus-wide email explaining the high police presence in the area and reassuring students that there was no ongoing threat.

“Last night, there was an explosive device discovered off-campus in a Colonial Williamsburg parking lot at Francis and [South] Boundary Streets,” Cheesebro said in the email. “The report was made to Williamsburg Police around 5 p.m. No injuries have been reported … William & Mary Police were on-scene last night and we continue to follow this closely but again, see no ongoing threat to campus.”

The section of Francis Street between South Boundary Street and South Henry Street remained closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic Friday, and other schools in the City of Williamsburg were placed on alert. The streets surrounding the explosion were reopened 6 p.m. Friday.

Matthew Whaley Elementary School went into a soft lockdown Friday morning when a passerby reported a possible explosive device in a vehicle near the school, according to WPD Major Greg Riley. The soft lockdown began at 10:15 a.m. and ended at 11:25 a.m. During this time, no staff or students were allowed to leave the building, and the doors to the school were locked. When the police concluded their investigation, they determined that there was no threat and the reported “device” was actually three propane tanks used for cooking.

Cheesebro sent emails alerting students of the incident at Matthew Whaley and the Williamsburg Police Department’s announcement regarding Power’s arrest Oct. 20 at 10:43 p.m.

Cheesebro’s first email arrived almost 17 hours after the reported explosion, but an emergency notification at the time of the detonation was not mandated by the Clery Act, the consumer protection law that requires colleges to report and log information about crime. For off-campus crimes that occur close to on-campus property, campus officials must evaluate if there is a serious or ongoing threat to determine if a timely warning needs to be issued.

Thursday night’s explosion was covered by the Clery Act because it occurred off campus on property adjacent to the campus.

According to an email sent by Cheesebro at 9:23 a.m. Oct. 20, campus officials determined that the explosion did not pose an ongoing threat to campus.

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About Author

Sarah Smith

News Editor Sarah Smith '19 is an international relations and gender, sexuality, and women's studies major from Ashburn, VA. She formerly served as Associate News Editor.

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