Military News

Officials: Faux pipe bomb two components short of being explosive

Bomb squad experts retrieved what looked like a textbook version of a pipe bomb from Alfred Baria's pickup Wednesday following reports of shots fired at soldiers just outside Camp Shelby.

After further examination, the 6-inch PVC pipe sealed with end caps contained no explosive charge. However, Baria took efforts to make the device appear nearly identical to a real homemade pipe bomb, a federal official said.

Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent Jason Denham said Baria even coated the pipe with an olive-drab paint.

OD green, as it's called by those in the military, is a color widely used for camouflaging items, including explosives such as the anti-personnel claymore mine.

The fake pipe bomb was only two components short of being classified as an actual explosive device, officials said.

According to ATF regulations, had the pipe been in the vicinity of a simple igniter such as a fuse or a propellant such as gunpowder, authorities would have likely filed federal charges against Baria.

"If the components were there, certainly that would be a chargeable offense," Biloxi Police Chief John Miller said. "But I wouldn't make that charge without talking to the prosecuting attorney first."

Biloxi's bomb squad unit and ATF agents removed the device from Baria's pickup hours after he was arrested at 11:20 a.m. Wednesday.

The 61-year-old rode around with the device in his pickup, driving past soldiers who were posted at traffic points near Mississippi 29 and Peret Tower Road just outside Camp Shelby's perimeter.

For two days in a row, officials said, Baria drew the ire of the soldiers by creating loud bangs, prompting the soldiers to believe someone was firing shots at them or in their vicinity.

Perry County deputies and Mississippi Highway Patrol Troopers arrested him when he returned to the area hours after "harassing" the soldiers early Wednesday morning, Camp Shelby installation commander Col. Greg Michel said.

Perry County Sheriff Jimmy Smith said Baria admitted to being in the area at the times soldiers reported hearing gunshots Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.

Baria also admitted to creating the loud bangs but claimed he could backfire his truck "on command," Smith said.

Officials have not confirmed whether the noises came from a firearm or an engine or both.

The sheriff had no additional information Thursday afternoon and said the incidents remain under investigation.

Baria's ability to backfire his engine at will is virtually impossible with newer-model vehicles without numerous modifications to the engine.

Mechanic Kevin Poulos, service manager of David Poulos Tire and Auto in Biloxi, said it would be difficult but not impossible to cause an older engine to backfire consistently and precisely.

Poulus said excessive backfiring would do extensive damage to the engine.

Mechanic Eddie Preston, owner of Eddie's Tire and Automotive in Gulfport, agreed, saying there are several ways one can modify and manipulate an engine to cause it to backfire, but the engine would likely be very old and probably use a carburetor instead of a fuel injector.

Carburetors were phased out in most vehicles during the late 1980s, and in the mid-1990s, manufacturers began installing computers in vehicles, which, among other functions, prevent engines from backfiring.

Baria's pickup appeared to be an older model, possibly from the early 1990s, but authorities did not specify its year, make or model.

Deputies arrested Baria on four misdemeanor disturbance charges and two felony counts of possession of a weapon by a felon.

He remained in the Perry County jail with no bond set Thursday.

Sheriff's officials said he is scheduled to make an initial court appearance sometime Friday afternoon.