Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced, in a press release, the charges against two men for possessing illegal explosives found in a van that was stopped on Wednesday in the Center City neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
“These individuals who have been charged today tried to use a message of justice to provide cover for their own gain,” said Attorney General Shapiro in the press release. “This is an incredibly challenging time for communities in Philadelphia, across Southeast Pennsylvania, and around the country. We will not allow criminals to hijack, and take advantage of, lawful protests as an opportunity to sow chaos.”
Philadelphia Police Department officers were responding to a commercial burglary alarm on Wednesday night when they observed a group of 10 to 15 “staged vehicles” in a parking lot. Officers saw the vehicles leave the parking lot as a “unit” and pursued the vehicles after they attempted to ram a Target parking lot barricade.
Officers then followed the convoy down Interstate 76 toward Center City and ultimately the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. A van from the convoy pulled over, and the driver removed tape that was covering the license plate. Officers pulled over the vehicle at 18th Street and the parkway and detained the occupants of the van.
Philadelphia Police Department and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives officers then searched the van and found explosives in the form of dynamite, a handheld propane tank torch, a taser, electric drills, bolt cutters, and machetes. The driver and a passenger from the van were arrested.
The items found in the van are commonly used to force access to ATMs in order to steal the money within them, according to the press release. There have been approximately 30 ATM bombings in Philadelphia in the last four days.
The two men in the van were identified as Brian Larue and Eric Murray. They have been charged with possession of weapons of mass destruction, conspiracy, and risking a catastrophe, along with multiple misdemeanor charges. The investigation is still ongoing, according to Shapiro.
“Possessing illegal explosive devices presents great danger to the general public, first responders and all citizens alike,” said Matthew Varisco, special agent in charge of the ATF’s Philadelphia Field Division, in the press release. “Thanks to the outstanding work of the investigative agencies involved to include the Philadelphia Police Department Bomb Squad and the Attorney General’s Office, unimaginable criminal acts were undoubtedly prevented.”