West Virginia authorities say James Dean Fowler, 50, threatened to blow up a federal courthouse and a Bluefield church on Monday, Aug. 22, 2022. West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority photo.
A West Virginia man remains behind bars after strolling into a federal courthouse in Bluefield armed with a box cutter and what he claimed was a bomb strapped to his back, jail records indicate.
On Monday, Aug. 22, the West Virginia State Police Bomb Squad blew up a black backpack belonging to James Dean Fowler, 50, but it didn’t have any explosives in it.
After demanding to speak to a federal agent because “someone was going to listen to him today,” Fowler also said he’d planted a second bomb at Westminster Presbyterian Church, about a mile from the Elizabeth Key Federal Courthouse, but investigators turned up only a “hoax device” stuffed in a “large tan colored bag” secreted in a bush, according to a criminal complaint filed with the Magistrate Court of Mercer County.
Fowler faces two counts of manufacturing a hoax bomb, two counts of hoax terroristic threats, and one count of falsely reporting a bomb. He’s being held at the Southern Regional Jail and Correctional Facility in Beaver on a $500,000 cash bond.
Located in Mercer County, West Virginia, the Bluefield Police Department safeguards the lives and property of 9,658 residents. City of Bluefield photo.
Fowler’s attorney, Bobby Erickson, declined comment to Coffee or Die Magazine. If convicted, Fowler could spend up to 10 years in a West Virginia penitentiary on each of the bomb-making counts.
Monday’s bomb scare forced the evacuation of neighborhoods surrounding the federal courthouse, the church, and Fowler’s apartment in Bluefield. Investigators remain baffled about his motive.
After searching his flat and interrogating Fowler, FBI Special Agent Phil Gunther told Bluefield Police Detective Lt. Kenneth L. Adams that Fowler “spoke about devices inside cell phones and seemed to suffer from some sort of mental illness,” according to the criminal complaint.
Bluefield Police officers declined comment.
Fowler’s rap sheet dates back to 2001 and includes arrests for identity fraud, domestic violence, and drug-dealing. His preliminary hearing is slated for Sept. 1 in Mercer County Magistrate Court.
Joshua Skovlund is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die. He covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. After five years as in paramedicine, he transitioned to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children.
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